US, 2019, 128 minutes, Colour.
Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari.
Directed by Guy Ritchie.
The young potential audience for this new version of Aladdin, live action, will probably have seen the animated version of 1992 (and more than once), with that hyped performance by Robin Williams as the voice of the genie and the animation enabling him to swirl into all kinds of alternate disguises and all kinds of comic, even manic, voices. And, for the youngsters who saw it back in 1992, they are now in a position to indulge in a guilty pleasure of watching this version even as they take their own youngsters, the age they were when they first saw Aladdin.
And, this might be the best comment to make, it is definitely a family outing.
Most of us are familiar with the basic story, the young thief in the city, the Princess in the palace, the evil vizier with political and power ambitions, the lamp in the cave, rubbing the lamp and the genie appearing offering three wishes (urging that the third wish be for the genie himself and his freedom!), the magic carpet…
And, back in the 90s, there were those wonderful songs, the triumphant entrance of Aladdin, A Whole New World on the carpet, A Friend like Me… And there are some more songs, especially in the 21st century greater emphasis on the role of the Princess, her being a strong character, not wanting to be married off, noting that there has always been a Sultan but that he was always male and that she is a strong candidate for a female Sultan. And she has a song with an emphasis in the lyrics that she will not be: speechless.
This is a wonderful and spectacular land, the city itself, the palace on the hill, the sea, ships, lavish costumes and decor, bright design, even brighter colours. Plenty to excite the eyes.
While Mena Massoud is a genial Aladdin, adept at thieving, more than adept in infiltrating the palace, in love with the Princess (though thinking her the maid at first), becoming a victim of the vizier, giving up his claims when exposed – but finally, of course, coming to the rescue.
British Naomi Scott is beauty and charm, not without some toughness, as the Princess.
And, of course, the question on the minds of all the adults, at least, who are waiting to see the genie – will Will Smith, seen live, be better than Robin Williams’ comic style or not. Obviously, quite an unfair question. Will Smith does his best, a genial genie, smiling, singing, wisecracking, and some special effects enabling him to be like the animated genie of the original film. Will Smith likeable, and engaging genie.
Jafar is sinister. Aladdin’s monkey is mischievous.
So, plenty to entertain – for audiences of all ages.
1. A family outing? Appeal to adults and children?
2. The remake, expectations, live action interpretation? Memories of the animated version?
3. The exotic settings, the city and its detail, the buildings, the hills, the Middle East and style? The water? The interiors, costumes and decor?
4. The songs, dramatising each of the characters, dramatising situations? Their popularity from the 1990s and expectations here?
5. Aladdin, his age, his work as a thief, his companion monkey, his dwelling? The thing in the street, the encounters with people, his friendliness, the encounter with the princess, her anonymity, taking the bread, walking the poor? They’re talking, stealing the bracelet? The hairpiece and his declaration that he would return it?
6. The princess, her disguise, her being kept in for protection, her relationship with her father, with the vizier, the support of her made, the intention that she should be married, the visiting Prince and his awkwardness, the touches of comedy?
7. Aladdin, infiltrating the palace, mistaking the maid for the princess, the promised to return? The princess waiting and his not keeping his promise?
8. The vizier, his appearance, sinister, with the guards, the images of the cave in the past and its collapse, wanting to send in the, his power over Aladdin? The warning, to take no jewels, the abundance of wealth inside, the monkeys temptation? Getting the lamp, climbing the rocks to get it? The collapse?
9. The vizier, his past story, poor, his ambitions, power in the kingdom, wanting to invade neighbouring countries? Hakeem, the question of loyalty is to the Sultan? His decision to take a stand against the vizier?
10. Rubbing the lamp, the appearance of the genie, Will Smith, his look, his patter, the many images of him, the comic variations? His songs? The thousand years, confined in brass, explanation of the wishes, his wanting to be free Western Mark the return to the city, the genie getting them out of the cave, the first wish? Aladdin wanting to be the Prince? The huge entourage, the lavish procession, everybody watching?
11. The reception, Aladdin and his brash comments, the dancing performance, his awkwardness, the conflict with the genie? Everybody’s reaction? The genie and the attraction to the maid and vice versa?
12. The magic carpet, the rides, a whole new world? The princess, talking with the Latin, talking about the monkey, and knowing the truth, but believing him to be a Prince in disguise?
13. The vizier, his threats, wanting the lamp, the various struggles to get the lamp? The buildup to the confrontation, the vizier, his wishes, wanting to be all-powerful, wanting to be a genie – and reduced to going back inside the lamp?
14. Aladdin, his return home, despondent, but wanting to help the princess, getting the Sultan’s praise? The laws and the possibility of their changing? The marriage?
15. The framing of the story with the Mariner, his wife, children, singing the songs – and the genie and his freedom?