Guuuuurl, let me tell you, I have hated me some Disney remakes this past couple of years. Cinderella was boring and forgettable. And Disney gave us what they thought we wanted with Beauty and the Beast, yet missed the mark (See my review of BATB here). But there’ve been a few diamonds in the rough. Most notably, Maleficent, with its spin on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. I LOOOOOVE the mother-daughter connection in that film. I’ve also heard the Dumbo movie was alright; though, you’ll have to tell me, because I’m not brave enough to find out. (I cry ugly tears for that baby elephant.)
But then came Aladdin. And, y’all.
This movie finally comes close to the quality of remake we DESERVE!
I’m not going to bore you with the plot, because it’s pretty much the same as the original with a few welcome twists that I won’t spoil. (And if you haven’t seen the original, what are you even doing here?) But Will Smith is our new Genie; Mena Massoud is the lovable thief, Aladdin; and Naomi Scott is the gorgeous Jasmine. Our story takes place in the mythical desert-city of Agrabah, “where the caravan camels roam…”
Now, what made me leave the theater with a smile on my face instead of a scowl? Three big things:
1. A talented and ethnically appropriate cast!
Mena Massoud is the perfect Aladdin, and Naomi Scott is one hot, powerful Jasmine. Yes, Agrabah is a made-up place in a made-up country, but we expect brown people here! And thankfully, they got it right. (If you’re wondering why I’d even bring this up in 2019, check out this list of modern, white-washed films. It’s still a thing, folks.)
2. Will Smith’s version of “Never Had a Friend Like Me” is a total banger! Not to mention, his Genie is fresh, but just as much fun as the original.
I miss Robin Williams more than you could know. I’m so glad they didn’t dishonor his memory with a bad imitation.
3. We get our girl power, and one hell of a power ballad to boot. “Speechless” is the only new addition to the familiar nineties soundtrack, and it does not disappoint. Scott belts it with so much passion, you can really feel Jasmine’s yearning to be heard.
And let me just say, all the voice talent in this film is top notch. If Disney used autotune in this film, it hidden far better than it was in the watery garbage they served us in Beauty and the Beast. I put their service to the test, indeed.
I’m sorry, sir, but it is “baroquen”.
But there were three big things Disney could have done better with Aladdin as well:
1. Will Smith’s opening number, “Arabian Nights”, isn’t nearly as badass as “Never Had a Friend Like Me”. His voice sounds strained, making a rough start for an otherwise pretty great movie.
2. That awesome power ballad of Jasmine’s comes at the most awkward times. We’re in the middle of a hostile takedown, and this chick pauses to belt out all her feelings. Before that, she sings it when Daddy and Jafar decide to invade her mother’s home country. As much as I love “Speechless”, it throws off the tone of both scenes. I don’t expect the girl to drop down and cry or anything, but damn… there’s a time and a place for internal rebellion, and it’s before the shit gets real.
3. And worst of all: Jafar is a weak-ass bitch. Whiney, sniveling, and not-at-all imposing, he doesn’t live up to his cartoon predecessor. Marwan Kenzari looks like he’s probably a sweet guy in real life. THAT’S NOT WHAT WE NEEDED. The casting department really dropped the ball here. We needed someone older, who could be creepier and far more menacing, like… Ben Kingsley.
Who would have worn it better: cinnamon roll and total hottie, Kenzari, or mature Oscar-winner, Kingsley?
It would have been even more epic for Jasmine (and Aladdin too, of course) to defeat a really scary bad guy that the audience absolutely hates. Instead, Kenzari’s Jafar is just an asshole we don’t like that much. I kind of felt sorry for the guy, really. He was so insecure and needy, it made me wonder how he ever rose to the position of trusted vizier in the first place. Oh, right: magic. But, still…
So, despite an equal amount of pros and cons, I thought Aladdin was great. The songs were as fun as (if not better than) the originals. The cast was overall fantastic. And I didn’t leave the theater feeling uncomfortable and slightly robbed like I did after BATB.
(Sorry, not sorry.)
Overall, I give it four shields.
Aladdin was awesome, but I think Disney can do even better next time.
And because I love y’all, here’s a quick reference list of previous and upcoming live-action Disney remakes:
- The Jungle Book/ 1994
- 101 Dalmations/ 1996
- 102 Dalmations/ 2000
- Alice in Wonderland/ 2010
- Maleficent/ 2014
- Cinderella/ 2015
- The Jungle Book/ 2016
- Alice Through the Looking Glass/ 2016
- Beauty and the Beast/ 2017
- Christopher Robin/ 2018
- Dumbo/ 2019
- Aladdin/ 2019
- The Lion King/ July 19th, 2019
- Maleficent: Mistress of Evil/ October 18th, 2019
- Lady and the Tramp/ November 12th, 2019
- Mulan/ March 27th, 2020
- Cruella/ December 23rd, 2020
- The Sword in the Stone/ TBA
- Pinocchio/ TBA
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame/ TBA
- Lilo and Stitch/ TBA
- The Little Mermaid/ TBA
- Prince Charming (maybe)/ TBA
And a preview for the upcoming Lion King movie, that looks a hell of a lot better than I thought it would:
So, what remake has been your favorite so far, and which are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.