Banner: Walt Disney Pictures
Producers: Dan Lin, Jonathan Eirich
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Numan Acar
Writers: John August, Guy Ritchie (Screenplay)
Music: Alan Menken
There’s scarcely a soul who hasn’t grown up on the tales of the Arabian Nights, especially Aladdin. And, of course, Disney immortalised it with the animation film Aladdin in 1992. And Robin Williams as the voice of the Genie made it the most popular animated character of all time. Now, the live action version of this animation film stays true to the original story, well mostly, with some small changes to make it relevant to today’s times.
For those who are not aware of the story, here’s a quick glimpse. Jafar is the vizier of Agrabah. All he wants is to become the Sultan one day. The only way he can achieve this is to get his hands on a magic lamp hidden in a cave, and the only person who can retrieve it is ‘a diamond in the rough’. Jafar and his parrot Iago are in search of that special person.
Aladdin and his monkey Abu are petty thieves on the streets of Agrabah. They are not hardened criminals but thieving is their means to survival. One day, Aladdin has a chance encounter with Princess Jasmine. He saves her from a sticky situation and, in the bargain, her bracelet is left with him. On the pretext of returning it, Aladdin sneaks into the palace. Iago notices him and informs Jafar that he has found ‘the diamond in the rough’.
Jafar gets hold of Aladdin and convinces him to go to the cave of treasures to find the lamp. He promises that, in return, he will make him so rich that he would become worthy of Princess Jasmine. Aladdin agrees and succeeds in getting the lamp. But he also chances upon the magic carpet. But Jafar is a treacherous man and tries to snatch away the lamp and leave Aladdin in the cave.
But luck is on Aladdin’s his side and he manages to keep the lamp and save his life as well. And when he rubs the lamp, the Genie appears, granting him three wishes. With each wish, Aladdin gets closer to Jasmine and to happiness. However, it is not an easy journey for him. It is filled with action, adventure and danger. That is, of course, the rest of the story.
Guy Ritchie stays largely true to the original story, but tweaks it to make it relevant to today’s times. There is not a single dull moment in the 128-minute film. The scenes are engaging, the dialogue is funny, the CGI is extravagant and the music amazing. Whether the cave of secrets, the city of Agrabah, Aladdin’s unique home, the palace, the extensive desert or the frozen land to which Aladdin is banished, everything is picture perfect. The chase scenes have been choreographed very well and are thrilling. As mentioned, the CGI is top notch, and the big blue Genie is so realistic that it is hard to believe it is all CGI!
What makes the movie even more memorable is its music. The new version has kept all the original songs and some new ones have been added. A whole new world still brings about the same emotion that it did 27 years ago. And watching it in 3D, the ride on the magic carpet feels as real as real can get.
The addition of a new song, Speechless, is commendable. It talks about women’s empowerment, lending the story a modern touch. It is in sync with how Princess Jasmine’s character has been written in this new and updated film. There is more to her than just waiting for her ‘prince’. She is ambitious and wants to be the Sultan of Agrabah. This change is in keeping with the trend of the new breed of Disney princesses, who are not just about beauty but are about brains as well.
It must not have been easy for Will Smith to step into the shoes of Robin Williams’s Genie. The actor, with his stand-up comedy background, made the character so layered, so funny and so unforgettable. But Smith adds the musical element to the Genie. Being a rapper and a singer, Smith makes the Genie his own and you fall in love with him. He brings in his own flair for comedy, reminding us of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.
Mena Massoud as Aladdin is charming. He is good in the stunts and his dance moves are fantastic. Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine is full of grace and poise, and at the same time comes across as a strong and ambitious personality. Jafar is played by Marwan Kenzari, who gives the character the right amount of meanness. Despite his small frame, he is able to bring to the role the scary and vicious elements. Navid Negahban as the Sultan, Nasim Pedrad as Dalia, Billy Magnussen as Prince Andres and Numan Acar as Hakim provide able support.
Verdict: Go for it!