MOVIE REVIEW | “Aladdin” (2019)

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Walt Disney Pictures’ 2019 “Aladdin,” is a musical, live-action film adaptation of their 1992 animated film.

Directed by Guy Ritchie, who co-wrote the screenplay with John August, it’s a faithful retelling of the original movie, leaving the original storyline intact.

We follow Aladdin, a street urchin, as he falls in love with Princess Jasmine, befriends a wish-granting Genie, and attempts to save the kingdom from their conspiring nemesis, Jafar. Aladdin (Mena Masoud) is one of the many poverty-stricken citizens of the fictional kingdom of Agrabah.

As a beggar, he runs into Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who is disguised as a commoner to survey the city her father rules. The two meet and fall in love; Aladdin has also disguised himself as having status.

UntitledSoon, the pair is chased through the streets at the behest of Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), who is actively trying to take over the entire kingdom from the good Sultan (Navid Negahban). To succeed, Jafar needs a magic lamp hidden in the Cave of Wonders, and only Aladdin is purest of heart or “the diamond in the rough,” who can enter the cave to possess it.

Swift carpet-rides ensue, to attempt to save the spirit and inhabitants of the kingdom. As Aladdin, Mossaud plays a miscreant with sparkle. Will Smith is the blue genie with wit and soul. Props to Smith for making the genie his own, rather than trying to be anything at all resembling Robin Williams (which would have been impossible, anyway).

Princess Jasmine (Scott) assumes a liberationist identity not cultivated in the original movie, and gifts a star-making performance. Her handmaiden is a delightful Nasim Pedrad, while Kenzari makes a likably sinister Jafar.

The songs are the same, plus a new one for Jasmine. Composer Alan Menken, along with lyricists Tim Rice and Howard Ashman, bring us “Speechless,” working well as an affirmative anthem of female empowerment (and Jasmine’s only song).

The most memorable ones though, are still “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me.” The plot-thread, making this Aladdin shine brilliantly, involves real-world issues heightened on screen: class-status, poverty, greed, power, corruption and societal subjugation of women.

While that seems like a lot of topics, they unexpectedly coalesce into a fun, light-hearted family movie.

“Aladdin” is rated PG and has a runtime of 128 minutes.


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