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Movie Review: “Aladdin”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 5/24/2019

Theatrical Release: 5/24/2019

Synopsis

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a skilled street thief with a trusted monkey, Abu, at his side. He is a very capable thief, but he has no family and he has little to his name. After an encounter in the market, Aladdin becomes infatuated with a young woman who serves as a handmaiden to the princess. However, Aladdin soon discovers that the woman he met (Naomi Scott) was actually the princess in disguise. He cannot get her out of his head, and he absolutely 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, and he 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 on the throne. After all this time, however, the highest 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) who 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 he is certainly not going to risk entering the cave himself. Fortunately, he has no problem risking the life of a petty street thief.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Jasmine (+5pts)

Jafar (-3pts)

The Genie (+8pts)

Drawn Out (-3pts)

Aladdin (+3pts)

The Wishes (-3pts)

movie-review-aladdin

Pro: Jasmine (+5pts)

I liked what the filmmakers did with Jasmine’s story in this movie. In this movie, Jasmine had 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 culturally relevant, and it made complete sense for a woman like Jasmine.

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 and her story a lot more interesting than it was in the animated classic. It certainly did not feel like the filmmakers were forcing feminism into this story. Everything that was in this story felt organic, made the movie more interesting, and the performance from Naomi Scott certainly helped in making Jasmine a strong character.

movie-review-aladdin

Con: Jafar (-3pts)

If you have seen other reviews for this movie, then you may have 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 just 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, 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 really to blame for my issues with the character, but regardless of who was to blame, this version of Jafar was a non-threatening and poorly written antagonist.

movie-review-aladdin

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 that was the right decision, as no one could do Robin Williams better than Robin Williams. Will Smith's version of the character was much different, but he had the energy, the heart, and the charisma that was necessary to pull this character off. Was Will Smith the only person who could have pulled this off? Of course not, but he definitely did.

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, he had good chemistry with Aladdin, and he was really just the most entertaining part of this movie. I was as nervous for this performance as anyone—after having seen the CGI of the character in the trailers and advertisements. However, after seeing the character within the context of the movie, I think the character worked really well. Could the CGI have been done better? Yes, but it never took me out of the movie, so it was not that big of a deal.

movie-review-aladdin

Con: Drawn Out (-3pts)

I liked the movie, for the most part, but it seemed unnecessarily drawn out at both the beginning and 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 got Aladdin to enter the cave. None of what was in the beginning was “bad”, but it was as if the filmmakers were rambling a bit in order to increase the movie’s runtime.

The movie also felt a little messy toward the end of the story, as the filmmakers built toward a climax, then built toward another climax, and then built toward a third. Each climax felt like it could have been the end of the movie, 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 they 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, and then they tried to wrap up each storyline as quickly as possible in the end, without much concern for whether or not it felt coherent. I liked the story, but I thought the filmmaker’s execution of it was a little messy.

movie-review-aladdin

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, Naomi Scott, and Marwan Kenzari. Aladdin was the main character, and while there was not anything special about the character or the performance, the character served his purpose for this story.

movie-review-aladdin

Con: The Wishes (-3pts)

This was an aspect of the story that made sense, unless you think about it even a little. Aladdin was supposed to be all concerned about what he wished for, because the Genie could only grant him three. However, the Genie seemed to have no problem using his magic for Aladdin's gain, even when Aladdin did 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 he could not make a wish. This was supposed to be a dramatic moment, because we were supposed to believe that the Genie wanted to help, but could not do so unless Aladdin could vocally make a wish. The problem was that we just watched have a movie that consisted of the Genie voluntarily doing magic for Aladdin's gain without Aladdin asking for it. This made the whole dramatic scene seem pretty dumb.

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 it 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 was and was not allowed to do with his magic.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-10

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

movie-review-aladdin

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 thought the filmmakers tried to stretch the 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. Jafar was definitely one of the film’s weaknesses—as he was a dumb, and not at all intimidating villain—and the rules behind the wishes and when the Genie was allowed to use his magic felt like the writers did not think a lot of things through.

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 also did a good job of improving Jasmine’s story, and Aladdin was fine as well, although there was nothing special about him. The filmmakers definitely had some lapses of judgement, but it was not a bad movie, and it kept me moderately entertained from start to finish.

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