Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ is the movie that you’re afraid to see. I already know this because everyone has been saying the same thing for months. Asking the same questions for months.
Is it going to be as good as the original?
Can Will Smith really replace Robin Williams as the Genie?
Will this remake destroy all of my childhood memories?
Most people I know are either sure they won’t like it or they’re afraid to see it because they’re afraid they won’t like it. I was pretty sure I was in that first camp. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it because I don’t generally like remakes, I’m not a huge fan of Will Smith, and I have zero sentimentality attached to this movie.
And yet, after seeing a preview of the movie, I’m pretty sure my heart grew three sizes because not only did I not HATE ‘Aladdin’ as I was expecting, but I actually kind of, well, LOVED IT. Here’s why.
1. Those lead actors are adorable.
Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott as Aladdin and Jasmine, respectively, are beautiful people. They have amazing smiles and near perfect teeth. We like to look at them. But they also have charisma and chemistry and they can sing and dance! You are definitely rooting for them, as you should.
2. Will Smith made the Genie his own.
I know. I cringed when I saw a blue Will Smith as well. When he was in his genie form, the CGI was a touch distracting but I guess it’s the best way to make a giant, muscular, blue Will Smith. But for much of the movie, he’s in a more presentable form. But here’s the thing. Sometimes, he can be so Will Smith. Know what I mean? For this role, he toned down his own Will-Smith-ness. He brought energy and personality to the character that was his own but didn’t seem like a caricature.
3. It was musical but not A MUSICAL.
I actually forgot that ‘Aladdin’ was a musical until Aladdin started singing in the markets. I cringed for a moment wondering if I was going to have to endure too much of a show. Surprisingly, there were new songs introduced that modernized the story and added to the characters (“Speechless” being the most memorable).
4. Guy Ritchie clearly had a vision.
When you think Disney directors, you probably don’t think of Guy Ritchie who directed harder edged movies like Snatch and Revolver. But I think that’s exactly why this movie worked so well. From the beginning, I could tell that his intent was to film this like an action movie, not a sweeping musical. He cast strong actors for the entire production and used their talents fully.
5. It was cinematically gorgeous.
To take the colorful glittering world of Agrabah and bring it to life was no small feat. From the costumes to the sets to the sweeping landscapes (much of which was filmed in Jordan), reality blended well with the visual effects to create a visually stunning movie.
So who is this movie for?
It’s a great movie on its own. It’s an action fantasy that kept me engrossed for most of the 128 minutes. But I didn’t have any nostalgic attachment to this movie. I wasn’t really comparing it to the original.
If you already have a special place in your heart for ‘Aladdin’, you’ll still find many of the original songs you loved (“Friend Like Me,” “A Whole New World,” “Prince Ali”) in a way that keeps them honest to the original interpretation. And I think you’ll find the characters are well-portrayed by the actors cast in the roles. The real question will be, can you accept Will Smith in Robin Williams’ role? For me, surprisingly, it worked.
Now, will the kids like it? My 12 year old son, who I’m raising to be almost as critical as I am, absolutely loved the movie for most of the reasons I mentioned above. He’s never seen the original and it was his first introduction to the story. He sees these remakes as a way to introduce his generation to these classic in a way in which they can relate. And in this case, it worked.
If your kids are under 8, they might find the movie to be a little long and the relationships to be a little complex. But hopefully the genie’s antics and the visually stunning movie will keep them occupied.
If you’re really worried about taking your kids, leave them home and grab a few girlfriends to go with because at its heart, it’s really a good rom com and one that had a very happy ending.