Review: Aladdin (2019)


In February, back when the first images of Will Smith as Genie surfaced, people collectively lost their minds. The internet was flooded with memes, jokes, and an overall disdain for his look. That frustration led to fears that Smith couldn’t play the iconic Disney character and the Aladdin remake would fail before it ever had a chance to succeed.

Three months later…Aladdin is here and Smith not only plays the Genie well, Aladdin succeeds at being an over-the-top remake of one of Disney’s beloved classics.

Fans of the 1992 animated film (or the 1993 Sega Genesis game) are familiar with the story of Aladdin. A street kid named Aladdin (Mena Massoud) lives in the Kingdom of Agrabah. After meeting Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), he breaks into the palace to return her bracelet. On his way out, Aladdin is caught by Jafar who offers him riches that will help him impress Jasmine. In exchange for the riches, all Aladdin has to do is enter the Cave of Wonders, find the lamp hidden inside, and return it to Jafar.

After a double-cross, Aladdin finds himself trapped in the cave with the lamp and his pet monkey Abu. Aladdin rubs the lamp to find Genie (Will Smith) living inside. The Genie grants Aladdin three wishes and only three (you can’t wish for more wishes). Aladdin uses a wish to impress Jasmine by becoming Prince Ali Ababwa.

While this is happening, Jafar is trying to seize control over Agrabah and use their military to conquer the world; while Jasmine pleas to her father that she should be the next Sultan and lead Agrabah.

As much flack as Will Smith got, his Genie is different than the iconic Genie voiced by the late Robin Williams, but different in a good way.  His Genie felt a little more grounded. Maybe it’s physically seeing the Genie that makes the conversations about freedom and what Aladdin will do with his final wish a lot more impactful. It should be no surprise that Smith is the most entertaining part of the film and the engine that drives the story. It’s impossible to recreate an iconic performance, but Smith adds his humor, charisma, and charm to deliver a Genie that anyone would want to be friends with.

The portrayal of Jasmine is a little different this time. Instead of trying to find a husband, Jasmine wants to be Sultan and lays out all the reasons why. Naomi Scott gives a wonderful performance and has some of the best musical numbers. Jasmine is a beautiful princess that’s as strong as she is smart. Scott lets all the different aspects of Jasmine shine through her performance.

The lead, Mena Massoud, does a lot of work as Aladdin. Massoud is the POV the audience sees the movie through. Even when Aladdin doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, Massoud is in most of the scenes reacting to whatever the Genie is doing. His best scene is when Prince Ali offers gifts to Jasmine. It’s a funny scene that makes his character more endearing.

The person having the most fun is Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. He seems to really enjoy playing the big bad in a Disney film. Jafar’s motivations aren’t marrying Jasmine, but using the lamp for world domination. Kenzari is an award winning actor and it shows when Jafar gets drunk on his own power. Kenzari skillfully transitions from a slimey Jaffar, to investigator Jafar, and Jafar’s final form as an evil sorcerer wielding his power.

Aladdin is the most music heavy Disney remake they’ve done so far. The musical numbers open a little flat with Will Smith singing Arabian Nights followed by Massoud’s version of One Jump Ahead. Once the story transitions to The Cave of Wonders it picks up with some amazing visuals for Friend Like Me and a huge musical number for Prince Ali’s entrance. The best singing isn’t the Whole New World duet but Scott’s Speechless songs that helps solidify Jasmine’s journey and motivations throughout the story.

Aladdin is as over-the-top as a film could be without being animated. It’s fun and really funny at times. The film relies heavy on the humor and big dance sequences for most its entertainment. Guy Ritchie does an incredible job capturing the spirit of the original while allowing this new cast to make the film their own. Will Smith was a great choice for Genie and along with the young cast he makes Aladdin a remake worth watching.

Grade: B