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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Aladdin is Disney's live-action adaptation of its own 1992 animated classic. As with previous remakes like Dumbo, Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast, there are lots of computer-generated special effects, including the quite scary Cave of Wonders and co-star Will Smith as the huge, comedic, blue-skinned Genie. The effects and the live-action factor make the scenes of peril and danger feel more intense than in the cartoon (although it's pretty tame for a Guy Ritchie-directed movie). There are chases, falls, and near deaths, as well as one confirmed fatality when villain Jafar pushes a man down a dark well. The cave crumbles and spews lava, a giant bird pursues the characters, guards are armed with weapons, and there are references to dead parents. Language is very mild, with just a few insults along the lines of "street rat"; characters flirt and kiss, and Genie tosses back a couple of martinis (a pipe also appears). Thanks to stars Mena Massoud (Aladdin) and Naomi Scott (Jasmine), this musical remake keeps the spirit of the original and adds a boost of female empowerment to messages about friendship, courage, integrity, and honesty.
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What's the story?
ALADDIN is director Guy Ritchie's live-action remake of Disney's classic 1992 animated musical about roguish street urchin Aladdin (Mena Massoud) and his adventures. On the bustling streets of Agrabah, Aladdin meets a beautiful young woman who says she's a royal handmaiden but is really the kingdom's reclusive Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Meanwhile, the sultan's power-hungry vizier, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), seeks someone worthy to enter the fabled Cave of Wonders to extract a special lamp that's hidden there. When Aladdin and his companion monkey, Abu, sneak into the palace grounds to find their new friend, Jafar arrests Aladdin, explains that the "handmaiden" is actually the princess, and commands the younger man to go after the lamp. What Jafar doesn't count on is Aladdin himself unleashing the lamp's power: a big blue genie (Will Smith) who's bound to grant him three wishes. With Genie's help, Aladdin transforms into "Prince Ali of Ababwa" to woo Princess Jasmine.
Is it any good?
Thanks to its appealing leads and a strong soundtrack, Disney's live-action remake is considerably better than expected, even if Smith's Genie isn't as memorable as Williams' original. With his crooked smile and earnest voice, Massoud is perfectly cast as Aladdin (although it feels like the hair department worked too hard to get that one piece of mussed fringe "just so"). He has a lovely chemistry with Scott's Jasmine, who's much more of a feminist here than in the animated version. Scott also proves to be a fine singer, although Jasmine's new original song "Speechless" feels slightly forced (especially if you know the classic soundtrack by heart). Aladdin and Jasmine's shared songs are well executed, and "A Whole New World" continues to pack an emotional punch. Kenzari is believably ruthless as the ambitious, evil Jafar, and SNL alum Nasim Pedrad is quite good as Dalia, the real -- and amusingly opinionated -- royal handmaiden who catches the genie's eye.
As for Smith, whose role has been widely criticized on social media, let's just say that he's much easier to handle in disguise as Prince Ali's human adviser, rather than as the slightly off-putting blue CGI Genie. And Smith is certainly funny, but his performance of the genie's signature song, "Friend Like Me," can't live up to Williams' kinetic, rapid-fire delivery. The movie's production values are high, but Ritchie isn't in his element directing a musical; he's no Rob Marshall. The action scenes are more his thing, and he even manages to include his special slow-motion shots in a few scenes. Bottom line? Despite the heavy Smith-focused promotion, Aladdin ultimately (and fittingly) belongs to rising stars Massoud and Scott.
Talk to your kids about ...
Discuss the differences between this version and the original. For example, what do you think of Jasmine's new song? Or the lyrical changes to the original songs? Is there anything missing that you'd have liked to see?
What mistakes does Aladdin make throughout the story? What are the consequences for those mistakes? Does he redeem himself? Why is it important for kids to see consequences in movies?
How does Jasmine compare to other Disney princesses? Do you consider her a role model?
- In theaters: May 24, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: September 10, 2019
- Cast: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari
- Director: Guy Ritchie
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Fairy Tales, Friendship
- Character strengths: Courage, Integrity
- Run time: 128 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some action/peril
- Last updated: May 12, 2020
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