Earlier this week I saw a preview showing of Disney’s Aladdin, the live action version of the 1992 animated version. Will Smith replaces Robin Williams as the blue-skinned Genie, providing not only the voice but also the physical presence on the big screen. I had my doubts on whether he could pull that off. Robin Williams was a legendary comedian and the Genie was one of his most iconic roles. Never mind that I’ve never seen the animated version of Disney’s Aladdin.
The new Aladdin starts off on a boat with a father played by Will Smith, a little boy and a little girl, and a mother we hear but won’t see until the end of the movie. The father tells the children about Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, kicking off the first song called Arabian Nights. Arabian Nights is the English name for a collection of Middle Eastern folktales called One Thousand and One Nights. This collection featured the original story, “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp,” “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves,” and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad.”
The premise of Aladdin should be familiar to most people who grew up on the original folktales. An evil sorcerer sends a young thief to steal the lamp from the magic cave, and the thief uses his three wishes to escape the cave, becomes a prince and overcome the evil sorcerer. Throw in a Disney princess and a soundtrack, you got a whole new family classic that is better than the original folktale.
Since this is a Disney movie, I’m going to skip the plot highlights and focus on the main characters.
- Marwan Kenzari plays Jafar the evil sorcerer, who seems too squeaky clean to come across as evil until he kills a servant who reminded him that he was still the second most powerful man after the sultan in the kingdom.
- Mena Massoud plays Aladdin the thief, and later Prince Ali, who stays one step ahead of the guards while stealing for a living and running freely throughout the city.
- Naomi Scott plays Princess Jasmine, who can really sing the new theme song, “Speechless,” and pushes back against the conventions that others try to push on to her.
- Will Smith, of course, plays Genie, who really surprised me by his ability to sing and play a very over the top character that is quite different than past roles.
I’ve read some complaints about why Genie doesn’t free himself from the lamp if he is so powerful. Pay very close attention to what Genie says to Aladdin about the limitations of his power after they first meet. Will Smith does a very good job at expressing the nuances in what Genie can and cannot do with his powers.
While I haven’t seen the animated version, I thoroughly enjoyed this live action version.
This blog post is not a paid promotion even though See It First provided two free tickets for a friend and I to see Aladdin three days before it opened to the general public. See It First is a website that offers free tickets by invitation to see preview screenings of the newest movies. I’m under no obligation to write this blog post and See It First provided no editorial guidance for this video.