Every year Disney seems to beg the same question of which movie is finally old enough for a remake. While Aladdin has changed from animated to the live action musical format, the remake is every bit as good as the original or may even be better.
Aladdin does a fantastic job of adapting to today’s social climate. Princess Jasmine, played by Naomi Scott, constantly challenges the narrative that women have to do what they are told and that they must remain silent as their opinion isn’t welcomed. While this narrative is overly present in the Middle-East, it unfortunately remains present around the world. The political stance she plays in the film is unexpected but very much welcomed and worthy of praise. Girls growing up today need strong role models that won’t settle for the status quo like Jasmine. This is undoubtedly, the strongest and most important statement the film makes.
The costume design was nothing short of remarkable. The Middle-Eastern theme brought forth a rainbow of colors and artisan embroidery. Most scenes have you scanning the picture from top to bottom for all the aesthetically pleasing designs, shades and patterns. This was a crucial cultural aspect for the movie and they did a stellar job portraying. There was a lot of opportunity for the costume design team in this film and they executed it masterfully. They are more than deserving of award nomination for next year.
One of the best things about the movie was the casting decisions. Most of the actors are either from the Middle East or have descendants from the Middle East respectively. This was essential for the film’s success and expectations. Contradictingly, Will Smith does a great job as the genie but at some points he can stick out as not exactly the best person for the role. His charisma seems to at least make up for this but he can stand out as odd at some times.
The lead role of Aladdin, played by Mena Massoud, was well done for his first breakout role. From the hijinks of thievery in the bazaar with his pet monkey Abu to his romance with Princess Jasmine, he personifies the rags to riches theme of the movie. A constant running joke has Abu or Aladdin stealing items and deceiving bystanders with their criminal prowess. However, this all changes when he becomes a prince and such thievery is unnecessary. Once presented with his three wishes from the genie, he learns moral lessons about the hedonic treadmill of greed and power.
A concern I had was that in the beginning it seems to force the musical parts too much too early. For those who aren’t fans of musicals, it gives the viewer a grim outlook for the rest of the film. However, as the movie progresses the music gets much better and feels a lot less forced. The film’s desperate need to set-up the plot through singing just doesn’t work out. This is a cheesy component that is too often used in musicals.Needless to say, Aladdin could work without it. Especially considering most viewers won’t be seeing it for the first time.
Disney’s new take on Aladdin as a live action musical should be speculated considering their abuse of remakes. However, personally I think the change of format warranted a remake of a Disney classic, unlike most recent Disney films. I really enjoyed the cinematography, set design and music. The Middle-Eastern theme is done with the class and beauty it deserves. I give this film a nine out of ten rating.
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