In 1992, Walt Disney Pictures gave us the animated film Aladdin. That film took viewers on a magic carpet ride, soaring above its competition, and introduced us to a fabulous big blue genie with a spectacularly irreverent voice brought to life by the late Robin Williams. Fast-forward nearly 27 years later, and we get a live-action Aladdin for today’s generation.
Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a thief who steals to eat and simply survive. In the markets of Agrabah, he is referred to as a street rat and finds himself constantly chased through the streets. When he stumbles upon a young woman he assumes to be a handmaiden to the princess, he is instantly smitten.
In no time flat, Aladdin realizes that the woman he assumed to be a servant is actually Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who is being courted by every prince imaginable. Because of Aladdin’s lot in life, he will never be good enough for Jasmine.
Soon Aladdin is approached by the Sultan’s right-hand man Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), who forces Aladdin into the Cave of Wonders to retrieve a magical lamp. But Jafar’s plans never quite materialize as Aladdin and his monkey Abu emerge from the cave with a magic carpet and a genie (Will Smith) who will grant Aladdin three wishes.
What does the future hold for Aladdin? After he spends a wish to become the splendid Prince Ali, can he win the heart of the woman whom he loves?
The trailer for this film spent months being bludgeoned by many. It was an unimpressive trailer that made filmgoers, myself included, wonder how it would work in theaters. But despite the trepidation going in, despite there being issues with the film, for the most part, Aladdin works.
Smith as the Genie is not Robin Williams, nor should he be judged as such. He creates a character that is all his own, with a frenetic pace, frequent wisecracking and all the smooth moves we can handle. Unfortunately, much of the dialogue Smith was given proves to be marginal at best and induced reluctant chuckles that shouldn’t have been there amid the real laughter that was generated by some truly funny moments.
Musically, the film does resonate with the audience, and it’s a delightful romp through the streets, even in the moments when director Guy Ritchie and crew resort to sped-up sequences that feel straight out of the past, but not in a good way.
While the music is memorable, what I found to be most appealing about this version of Aladdin was the casting of and performances by Massoud and Scott. The chemistry between our new Aladdin and Jasmine delivered a smile to my face and a desire to see these two in other projects in the future. I relished the time Massoud and Scott shared the screen together and delighted in their success.
Although there are real issues with our new version of Aladdin, I think the youth of today will have a magical ride through both the highs and the lows. It’s a modern musical for the whole family.
Aladdin is available On Demand and on DVD beginning Sept. 10. Check your cable system for availability