This weekend Disney’s Live Action remake of Aladdin opened in cinemas across the UK. FinalBoss journeyed back to the bustling streets of Agrabah to see whether Will Smith’s Genie was as fresh and princely as we were expecting and if Guy Ritchie could resist giving everyone cockney accents. While Ritchie, Smith and the principal actors Naomi Scott (Princess Jasmine) and Mena Massoud (Aladdin) did a decent job, we were a little disappointed that Jason Statham didn’t cameo as a grizzled guard and Alfonso Ribeiro didn’t feature in the closing dance number.
Watch the Aladdin Trailer
Ritchie’s updated Aladdin has already suffered from a fair amount of controversy, with many critics calling out the casting choices, plot and setting for a lack of cultural understanding. While there may be issues with this adaptation of the 90’s classic, here are five things that are great about it.
This is the First Live-action Disney Movie with Non-white Leads
Ok so it shouldn’t have taken us until 2019 to get a live-action Disney movie with a non-white lead cast, but it finally happened with Ritchie’s Aladdin.
Jasmine Is A Kickass Role Model for Little Girls
OG 90’s Princess Jasmine doesn’t really care about becoming Sultan, or what will happen to Agrabah after her father’s reign is over. She’s more concerned with her own affairs. At the end of the movie, Jasmine becomes Aladdin’s wife because her father agrees to change a law that says she can’t marry someone other than a prince. Aladdin then becomes the new Sultan-in-waiting.
Ritchie’s updated Princess Jasmine is a powerful and capable would-be leader who loves her people and wants to lead them into an age of prosperity and change. Much is made of her journey to power, and the way that she stands up to those who want to keep her from becoming Sultan is empowering for little girls everywhere. Finally, a kickass Disney Princess update.
Jafar Has a Believable Backstory and is Less of a Pantomime Villain
Formerly one of Disney’s most outrageous pantomime villains, Jafar has been given a backstory that helps to explain why he has become so bitter, power-hungry and ruthless.
Played by Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari (now affectionately-dubbed “hot Jafar” by the internet), Ritchie’s Jafar grew up hungry and poor, was forced to turn to thievery to survive and gradually worked his way up the food chain to ensure that he never went hungry again. He shares a lot of traits with our hero Aladdin, something that he takes pleasure in reminding Aladdin of on numerous occasions.
Will Smith is the Fresh Genie of Agrabah, and it’s Glorious
It must have been very difficult for Will to step into the shoes of the late, great, Robin Williams. There was no way that in 2019, Will Smith could have played the genie the same way that Robin Williams did back in 1992, when it was possible to get away with offensive jokes if they were sung very nicely, and stereotypes were acceptable if you were pretending to be lots of different characters in quick succession.
Don’t get us wrong, we loved Robin’s genie and he was a big, blue, part of our collective childhoods, but Will’s genie is very good too. Will is fun, affectionate and fleshed out in a way that lets us forgive him for the uncanny valley CGI. Every time he switches from human to smurf, we mean genie, it’s… unsettling.
One of the most satisfying things about Live-Action Aladdin is Ritchie’s treatment of this beloved character. He gives Genie humanity, a love interest and, eventually, a family. It’s all very gratifying for those of us who grew up loving this kind, generous and strong character – OG Genie never gets a happy ending, but this genie does and it’s still a better love story than Twilight.
Alan Menken is the undisputed king of Disney musicals and it’s so fabulous that he came out of Mouse-tirement to re-orchestrate this updated version of, arguably, one of his best Disney movies to date. The updated numbers are bouncy, rich and have been given lyrical changes that make them appropriate for 2019 audiences. We can almost forgive Mr Menken for allowing Zayn Malik to sing A Whole New World on the soundtrack. Almost. Those first few breathy seconds of the track are enough to make you turn it off for good.
If you’re a fan of the original Aladdin movie and fancy a trip down memory lane, don’t go see this movie expecting it to be a carbon copy of the 90’s animated classic. Go with an open heart that’s eager to see your favourite characters come to life and you’ll get a lot out of this fun, thought-provoking and very well orchestrated movie. Ritchie, Menken and the choreography team have done a wonderful job pulling this project in a way that makes it feel fresh, exciting and engaging for a whole new generation of Disney fans. Just don’t stare at Smith’s CGI face for too long if you don’t want to have nightmares.
Fresh Prince Fans need to hear the end credits version of “Friend Like Me” right now.
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Charly is your friendly neighbourhood gaming nerd with a thing for strategy RPGs, visual novels and all things anime. When she’s not plugging 80+ hours into anything by Atlus, Chunsoft or NIS, she’s arguing with James and Ryan about Netflix series. Or cake.