Movie Review: “Aladdin”
Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a skilled street thief with his trusted monkey, Abu, at his side. He is a very capable thief, but has no family and has little to his name. After an encounter in the market, Aladdin becomes infatuated with the young woman who serves as handmaiden to the princess. However, Aladdin soon discovers that the woman he met (Naomi Scott) was actually the princess in disguise. He must see her again, but his ambition results in him getting caught by Jafar (Marwan Kenzari).
Jafar serves as one of The Sultan’s advisors, but will stop at nothing to achieve power. He wants to be The Sultan himself, and he utilizes dark magic in his efforts to put himself there. After all this time, the highest that his efforts have gotten him is the position of The Sultan’s top advisor, but he wants more. He has located a magic lamp that houses a genie (Will Smith) that is bound to grant three wishes to whoever possesses the lamp. However, the lamp is not easily accessible as it is guarded by a magic cave that devours anyone who it deems to be “unworthy.” Jafar needs the lamp, but is not going to risk entering the cave himself. Fortunately, he has no problem risking the life of a petty street thief.
The Pros & Cons
The Genie (+8pts)
Drawn Out (-3pts)
The Wishes (-3pts)
Pro: Jasmine (+5pts)
I liked what the filmmakers did with Jasmine’s story in this movie. In this movie, Jasmine has dreams of being The Sultan herself someday. However, a woman has never been The Sultan, and her father has no intention of breaking that tradition. I thought this was an addition to this story that was relevant and made sense.
It made sense for Jasmine to have those ambitions, and each of the characters’ opinions on the idea felt natural. It was an extra layer to the character that made Jasmine a lot more interesting. It certainly did not feel like the filmmakers forced feminism into this story. Everything that was in this story made sense, and the strong performance from Naomi Scott certainly helped in making a compelling character.
Con: Jafar (-3pts)
If you have seen any reviews for this movie, then you have probably seen the general consensus regarding this portrayal of Jafar. In the Disney classic version of this story, Jafar felt menacing and he felt powerful. In this movie, he felt more like a power hungry little weasel. There was nothing intimidating about the guy. From his voice to his screen presence, this version of Jafar felt about as threatening as a block of wood.
He was not a looming presence over the story (as he should have been), and he seemed to make mistakes left and right. Jafar had his plan and, given what he was capable of, achieving his goal should have been no problem at all. However, the filmmakers used his stupidity as a plot device to keep the movie going. I think it was the writing and directing that was really at fault here. I do not think Marwan Kenzari was at all to blame for my issues with the character but, whoever was to blame, this version of Jafar was a non-threatening and poorly written antagonist.
Pro: The Genie (+8pts)
As was the case when Robin Williams played the character, this version of the Genie was also the best part of this movie. The filmmakers made this character much different than Robin William’s version, and I think it worked. Will Smith has the energy, the heart, and the charisma that is necessary to play this character. Was Will Smith the only person who could have pulled this off? Of course not, but he certainly did pull it off.
The movie felt like it was missing something in the time leading up to when Aladdin got a hold of the lamp. However, once The Genie emerged, the movie picked right up. Will Smith added his own flavor to the character, had good chemistry with Aladdin, and was really just the most entertaining part of this movie. I was as nervous for this performance as anyone (after seeing the CGI of the character in the trailers and advertisements). Having seen the movie in context, I think the character worked really well. Could the CGI have been done better? Yes, but it was not so bad that it ever took me out of the movie.
Con: Drawn Out (-3pts)
I liked the movie, for the most part, but it seemed unnecessarily drawn out toward the beginning as well as toward the end of the story. The begging felt like it spent a little too much time setting up Aladdin and Jasmine’s first encounter with one another. Aladdin’s “One Jump Ahead” song felt forced into this movie, and it took an unnecessary amount of time to get to the point where Jafar gets Aladdin to enter the cave. It is not that anything in the beginning was “bad”, but it felt like the filmmakers were rambling a bit in order to increase the film’s runtime.The movie also felt a little messy toward the end of the story.
What I mean by that is that the movie built toward a climax, then built toward another climax, and did it again. Each scene felt like it could have been the movie’s final scene, but it just kept going. Much like the beginning of the movie, none of these scenes were “bad”. It just felt like the filmmakers knew where they wanted to go, but did not have a clear and concise way of getting there. They had drawn the movie out as much as they could have during the rising action, then they tried to wrap up each storyline as quickly as possible during the film’s climax. I liked the story, but I thought the filmmaker’s execution was a little messy.
Pro: Aladdin (+3pts)
Mena Moussad's performance of Aladdin was fine. It was not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was not the kind of performance that will make the character memorable. The writers did a good job of adding to Jasmine's story in a way that made her more interesting, but Aladdin did not get the same treatment. Mena Moussad did a decent enough job at delivering what he needed to. His character, being the primary protagonist, moved the plot forward and Mena Moussad did a decent job at carrying that torch. He also had pretty good chemistry with Will Smith (as The Genie), Naomi Scott (as Jasmine), and Marwan Kenzari (as Jafar). Aladdin was the main character and, while there was not anything special about the character or the performance, the character did serve his purpose for this story.
Con: The Wishes (-3pts)
This was an aspect of the story that made sense, unless you thought about it a little. Aladdin is supposed to be all concerned about what he wishes for, because The Genie can only grant him three. However, The Genie seems to have no problem using his magic for Aladdin's gain, even when Aladdin does not make a wish. This would have been fine, had there not be a scene in which Aladdin was in trouble. The genie could have helped very easily, but Aladdin was unable to speak so could not make a wish. This was supposed to be a dramatic moment, but I could not help but think about how poorly the writers thought this scene through (given the fact that The Genie had no problem throwing his magic around for Aladdin in almost every scene leading up to this point).
Then there were the wishes toward the end of the movie that made no sense. I do not want to get into the details to avoid spoilers, but the wishes did not seem to have achieved anything. They changed the character's costume, but surrounding characters were supposed to just go with it (even though they saw the whole thing happen). It felt really dumb, and felt like really lazy writing. The Genie and his magic were fun, but the filmmakers really needed to think a little bit more about the wishes that they were incorporating into this story, as well as what The Genie is allowed to do with his magic.
Grade: B- (82pts)
Aladdin was another one of Disney's attempts at recreating their classic movies in live-action form. I liked the movie, but I think the filmmakers tried to stretch the story's runtime a bit too much. The beginning of the movie felt like it dragged on for about twenty minutes too long, and the end of the movie felt like the filmmakers tried to wrap up too many storylines in too little time (making it feel like the filmmakers were rambling). Jafar was definitely one of the film’s weaknesses (as he was a dumb, non-intimidating villain), and the rules behind the wishes and when The Genie was allowed to use his magic felt like the writers got really sloppy.
The Genie, with Will Smith in the role, was definitely the most entertaining part of this movie. The character brought the energy, heart, and comedy that the movie definitely needed. The filmmakers did a good job of improving Jasmine’s story and, while there was nothing special about the character, Aladdin was fine as well. The filmmakers definitely made some mistakes, but it was not a bad movie and kept me moderately entertained from start to finish.