Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ can’t match the verve and fun of the original animated film.
Kernel Rating: 2.5 (2.5 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 129 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 8+. This remake of the 1992 original adds additional scares to the original film, including a villain who is interested in waging wars and destroying or conquering neighboring countries; characters are tortured and killed, including one who is pushed down a well; the deaths of parents are mentioned; and there is a lava explosion, cave collapse, an oversized predatory bird chasing the protagonists, falls from great heights, a near-drowning, and other scary moments. Two characters fall in love and there are a few kisses; an establishment being a brothel is very lightly suggested; a character drinks a few martinis.
By Roxana Hadadi
The early ‘90s was the golden age of Disney animated films, and before “The Lion King” become arguably the most popular Disney movie of all time, “Aladdin” ruled. The film took in a huge box office, reaffirmed Robin Williams as a star, and ushered in a new sort of family comedy in which adult humor could stand alongside material aimed toward children. And although the live-action remake of “Aladdin” attempts to capture that same energy with Will Smith and an appropriately diverse cast, it can’t quite match the verve and fun of the original.
“Aladdin” retains much of the same content as the original film: In the fictional Agrabah in the Middle East, an orphan named Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is forced to steal to make ends meet. With his best friend and monkey Abu, Aladdin evades capture, shares what he steals with other needy individuals, and is well-known for his charm and his speed. His quick thinking and fast feet also end up benefitting a young woman he meets in the market, Agrabah’s princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott, of “Saban’s Power Rangers”), who unknowingly steals bread and must flee from city guards.
The two form an instant connection, but their burgeoning relationship is put on hold when Agrabah’s second in command, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), enacts a plan to recover a magical lamp, kidnapping Aladdin and forcing him into a cave to retrieve it. But what Jafar doesn’t expect is that Aladdin will end up in possession of the lamp and become the master of the Genie (Will Smith) inside, who by supernatural law must fulfill three of Aladdin’s wishes. What comes next is an attempt by Aladdin to become worthy of Jasmine’s affection while also subverting the nefarious plans Jafar has for Agrabah’s future.
The greatest changes from the original “Aladdin” are the motivations for Jafar, which end up being more violent and threatening than the first film, and that tonally seems wrong for a movie that also features Aladdin being a break-dancing savant and Jasmine bemoaning how she feels invisible to the powerful men around her. The various motivations of characters and how the film jumps between potential violence and Genie-provided goofiness don’t feel quite right. But children may be charmed by the various songs and dance scenes, especially all that break dancing, and the Magic Carpet in particular is a bit of CGI done right. The flying carpet sometimes has more personality than various onscreen characters.
Still, the new version of “Aladdin” doesn’t offer much that the original animated version didn’t already, and that film’s brightness and energy isn’t entirely recreated here. There are some positive messages, including a focus on how women can rule as well as men; the love story doesn’t feel too rushed; and the cast is appropriately diverse, with actors from a variety of cultural backgrounds. But this live-action remake doesn’t feel like required viewing when its predecessor was already a classic.
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