Tag: Disney

Disney’s Aladdin (2019) Movie Review

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.

What 56% Of Americans Don’t Know About Arabic Numerals

A survey question by Civic Science found that 56% of Americans are against teaching Arabic numerals to kids. What are Arabic numerals? Zero, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine. The everyday numbers that schools have taught kids in the West for the last 800 years. Snopes weighed in with a “true” rating, noting that the survey was like another viral survey question from December 2015. Public Policy Polling found that 41% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats were in favor of bombing “Agrabah,” the fictional city of Disney’s Aladdin. I very much doubt that Will Smith will be singing “bomb, bomb, bomb, Agrabah,” in the live action version of Disney’s Aladdin at the movie theaters this week. What does the survey questions about Arabic numerals and Aladdin reveal about Americans?

Arabic, sometimes called Hindu-Arabic, numerals were first invented around 500 CE in India, and used extensively by Arabic mathematicians in Baghdad in the centuries thereafter. The Arabs brought not only Arabic numerals to the West, but also fractions, decimal point, and algebra that formed the mathematical basis of modern science. The finalized form of Arabic numerals that we use today came to Europe in the 13th century CE. Arabic numerals became the rage when the Norte Dame Cathedral in Paris finished building in the same century. As scientists discovered when the cathedral caught on fire last month, 800-year-old timber burns a lot faster than brand new construction timber. Arabic numerals replaced Roman numerals to become the standard numeral system around the world.

The Civic Science survey question showed that most Americans are prejudice towards anything associated with the word “Arabic” in particular and the Middle East in general. However, I find the breakdown in responses as a reflection of education in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 25% of Americans have a college degree. Most college degree programs require algebra and calculus for graduation, exposing students to the history of Arabic numerals and Arab contributions to science.

The 29% of Americans who wanted Arabic numerals taught in schools were probably college educated or have a personal interest in mathematics. As for the 15% of Americans who have no opinion, they were being honest for not knowing and withholding judgment on what Arabic numerals were. If the high schools ever taught critical thinking, most Americans should have been for No Opinion.

A somewhat interesting coincidence that Civic Science asked about the Arabic numerals prior to Disney coming out with a live action version of their animated Aladdin. The Public Policy Polling asked their survey question about bombing the fictional city of Aladdin in the run up to the 2016 presidential campaign, as the debate over Iran’s compliance with the nuclear treaty got underway. They based the survey question on Senator John McCain singing “bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran” in tune to an old Beach Boys song during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Disney’s Aladdin had permanently fixed the story as being Persian and in the city of Agrabah even though the original text mentions neither nationality nor geography. The story may have been set in Western China, which, at one point, was part of the Persian Empire. For those of you who don’t know, Iranians are Persians and not Arabs. Replace Iran with Agrabah in the survey question, most Republicans and some Democrats would bomb the heck out of it. Never mind that Agrabah was a fictional city created by Disney, which might have been an alternative name for Baghdad in Iraq since the animated version of Aladdin came out a year after the Gulf War ended.

The brilliant minds who brought us the Second Iraq War with a $1+ trillion USD price tag 15 years ago are in the White House today, pushing for war with Iran on purpose or by accident. Something to think about while watching Will Smith in the live action version of Aladdin.