Movies

Movie Review: Aladdin

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After “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast,” another Disney princess is getting a live-action makeover.  While the 2019 Guy Ritchie’s directed “Aladdin” is about riff-raff Aladdin (Mena Massoud) and Genie (Will Smith), it’s also a story about Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott).

In Agrabah, a society with a rigid class system, Aladdin gets by from stealing from street vendors.  A thief with a heart of gold, he takes what he needs and gives the rest to the hungry.  One day he and his thieving monkey, Abu, run into a disguised Princess Jasmine.

Jasmine is roaming outside the palace to better understand the lives of her people.  She aspires to follow in her father’s footstep by becoming a Sultan herself, instead of simply being married to a foreign prince  After a couple of stolen breads and a sleight of hand exchange of bracelet, they end up on the run together.  It’s a lively scene, showcasing creative parkour skills between tight walls, narrow alleys and open rooftops over bustling streets of Agrabah.

Jasmine parts way abruptly as she has to get back to the palace to greet one of her prince suitors.  Aladdin, who still has her bracelet, then attempts to return it to her at the palace.  He is spotted by Jafar’s (Marwan Kenzari) smart-talking parrot, Iago, and caught by the guards.

Jafar, the Sultan’s adviser and number two, has been plotting to take over the kingdom.  His path to power is a magical oil lamp inside the Cave of Wonders.  Only someone with the purest heart, a diamond in the rough, can enter the cave.  This is where Aladdin comes in.  He and Abu successfully walk into the cave and find all sorts of forbidden treasures.  Careful not to touch anything, Aladdin couldn’t help but freeing a flying carpet weighed down under a rock.  A few mishaps later, Aladdin is trapped inside the cave with the Genie out of the lamp.

It may take getting used to seeing a human actor as Genie, and while it would never be the same as the animated version, Smith makes the role his own in smoothly hilarious ways.  Aladdin uses his first wish to escape from the cave and second to make him a prince, as only a prince can be with Princess Jasmine.

Prince Ali makes his entrance in an extravagant and explosion of colors.  A parade of fancifully costumed entourage singing and dancing their way into the palace, complete with exotic animals and lavish gifts.  The nighttime carpet ride with the classic tune “A Whole New World” is a highlight, taking Aladdin and Jasmine over the panoramic cityscape, countryside and coastline.

The princess finds herself strangely drawn to the unknown prince, who seems to share her values.  She’s looking for a partner to wisely lead the kingdom, not a savior.  She’s led to believe that the Aladdin she met earlier is actually a prince in disguise. 

Aladdin struggles with the truth.  It’s not easy to give up a pretense when it gets you what you want.  A watchful Jafar seizes the opportunity and eventually gets his hand on the lamp.  The Genie, now serving him as the Master, has no choice but to grant him his wishes.  First as the Sultan and second as Sorcerer.

Amid this transformation, Jasmine finds courage to not be silenced.  This is a strong princess with her own mind and agency.  Scott has the charisma to demonstrate the princess coming into her own powers convincingly and she belts out “Speechless” with conviction.  Jasmine shows that she’s worthy of being a ruler herself.

Still, Jafar becomes impossibly powerful.  His all-consuming avarice for being number one remains his weakness, however, which in the end is crucial as it’s the key to beat him at his own ruthless game.

It’s heartwarming to see Aladdin’s third and final wish is to set his Genie free, even if it means giving up what he wants most in the world.  Massoud pulls off both the princely facade and humble commoner who finds his way back to being true to himself.

The movie’s production bursts with candy colors and exquisite fabrics, moves fast with action, and delights with music. “Aladdin” maintains the energetic pace and vibrancy from start to finish.

Like a magical carpet ride, “Aladdin” will take you to a whole new world of fantasy adventures, with charm and heart fit for the whole family.

Copyright (c) 2019. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic (rottentomatoes.com/critic/nathalia-aryani). She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com.

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