Aladdin is a musical fantasy directed by Guy Ritchie, who co-wrote the screenplay with John August. Produced by Walt Disney Pictures, it is a live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1992 animated film of the same name, which is based on the eponymous Middle-Eastern folktale from One Thousand and One Nights. I decided to see Aladdin at the last minute and I’m glad I did because it is the best version of Aladdin I’ve seen.
Aladdin opens with a husband (Will Smith), his wife Dalia (Nasim Pedrad) and their two children, Omar (Jordan A. Nash) and Lian (Taliyah Blair), sailing the world. As Omar and Lian watch a much bigger and more lavish ship pass by, they become excited. The husband hears the children comment on how much better the passing ship is, so he decides to tell them the story of Aladdin, the Princess and the lamp, emphasizing bigger isn’t always better.
Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a kind-hearted young “street urchant”, living in the desert kingdom of Agrabah, along with his pet monkey Abu, rescues and befriends a woman that happens to be Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). She snuck out of the palace because she grew tired of her sheltered and boring life. She hides her true identity, allowing Aladdin to believe that she is Princess Jasmine’s handmaiden, Dalia (Nasim Pedrad). Suddenly, Jasmine has to rush home, telling Aladdin that Prince Anders (Billy Magnussen) has come to court the Princess and since she is the handmaiden, she has to be by the Princess’ side. She then asks Aladdin to give back her bracelet (which was formerly her mother’s) he used as collateral to rescue the Princess earlier. However, Abu stole the bracelet back from Aladdin, therefore Aladdin is unable to give it back to her at present. Jasmine angrily tells him that he is just a common thief and she was naïve to think he was her friend.
Meanwhile, the nefarious and deceptive sorcerer and Grand Vizier, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), grows tired of being “second best” to the Sultan (who is Jasmine’s father). He and his parrot Iago (Alan Tudyk) finds his only recourse to become “1st” is to retrieve the magic lamp hidden within the Cave of Wonders. Legend has it that only one person is worthy to enter: “the diamond in the rough”, whom Jafar later identifies as Aladdin. That night, Aladdin returns Jasmine’s bracelet but while trying to return home, Jafar orders the palace guards, who are headed up by Hakim (Numan Acar) who is loyal to the Sultan of Agrabah (Navid Negahban), to capture him. Jafar reveals to Aladdin that the woman he thought was the handmaiden is really the princess and says he can make him rich enough to impress her by making him a prince, but only if he retrieves the lamp from inside the cave. Aladdin agrees and enters the cave with Abu. While in the cave, Aladdin rescues a magic carpet and obtains the lamp. Defying Aladdin’s instruction to touch nothing but the lamp, Abu grabs a ruby, which causes the cave to collapse. Aladdin, Abu, and the magic carpet quickly escapes the cave, giving the lamp to Jafar, who throws them back into the cave, but not before Abu steals the lamp back. Now trapped in the collapsed cave, Aladdin rubs the lamp and meets the Genie (Will Smith), an incredibly powerful, comedically eccentric and kindly djinn, who resides inside the lamp. The Genie explains he has the power to grant three wishes with the exception of murder, romance, resurrection of the dead, and wishing for more wishes, but only to the current owner of the lamp. Aladdin tricks the Genie into freeing them from the cave without using a wish and then uses his first wish to become a prince to impress Jasmine, and promises to use his third wish to free the Genie from servitude. Back in Agrabah, Aladdin, as “Prince Ali of Ababwa”, arrives in a large spectacle, complete with elephants, but Jasmine is unimpressed.
From the first appearance of the Genie, the entire movie changed. Will Smith really placed a whole new aura on “Aladdin”. The film became humorous, mystifying and in Disney style, glamorous with dancing, flamboyant costumes and brilliant scenery. The story picked up and actually gave the audience something to look forward to while making one happy they came to see Aladdin. Don’t get me wrong, watching Aladdin run through the streets of Agrabah while jumping from building to building was quite a sight. His clever lines and quick actions were spectacular. The special effects were brilliant, from the magic carpet to the many mystical appearances of the genie. Jafar’s staff changed to an evil and powerful snake that glowed red. Will sang and rapped and even danced a little. I have never enjoyed Aladdin as much as I did this version. There’s something for everyone embedded in this movie and I’m sure young and old will enjoy it. Aladdin grossed $275 million worldwide. The film received mixed reviews from critics; some praised the performances of Massoud, Smith, and Scott, costumes, and musical numbers, while others criticized the direction, pacing, and CGI effects. The film did receive a positive response from audiences polled by CinemaScore and PostTrak. If you know the story you’ll love this iteration, if you don’t know the story, you’ll still love this iteration. Check It Out!