A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this isn't a typically sweet fairy tale; this movie has mature content, including abusive husbands, adultery and revenge. Scheherazade inspires creativity and resourcefulness as she spins her magical tales, and helps her husband overcome his mistrust. Children are likely to be turned off by the nearly three hour length of this story, and it's best reserved for older kids and teens who will appreciate the mature themes, and root for the brilliant heroine.
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What's the story?
In ARABIAN NIGHTS, Schahriar (Dougray Scott), Sultan of Baghdad, suffers torment and paranoia after a failed assassination attempt masterminded by his late wife and her secret lover -- his own power-hungry brother. Scheherazade (Milli Avital), daughter of the Sultan's chief advisor, puts herself at grave risk to cure the monarch's madness. She willingly marries him, even though Schahriar has vowed to execute his second wife on their wedding night, to foil any further treachery. Scheherazade has a plan, however. She has mastered the art of storytelling, and every time unstable Schahriar threatens her life, she relates another tale of magic or irony that diverts him from carrying out the death sentence. Embedded within the stories (tales of Ali Baba, Aladdin and the lamp, Bacbac the hunchback, and others) are lessons that help Schahriar overcome his violent mistrust and triumph over his returning brother in battle.
Is it any good?
Just when you think you know a fairy tale inside and out ... wow! Along comes something like Arabian Nights, (from the creators of the Gulliver's Travels miniseries) which makes the world's oldest stories seem fresh and exciting. Arabian Nights succeeds, primarily, because of the framing story, the gripping drama of Scheherazade using her wits to save her life.
By focusing on Scheherazade's compelling plight, characters such as Ja-Far, Ali Baba, and Aladdin (depicted by actor Jason Scott Lee as Chinese, as some traditions have held) remain in their proper perspective as backdrops to the main narrative. Despite the sorcery, stunts, and wonders that abound in the tales, there's nothing childish about Scheherazade's dilemma and ordeal at the hands of Schahriar, which the filmmakers play as straight as any drama about mental illness.
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