Bizzaro’s Box Office: Aladdin 2019

Where were you in 1992? I suspect a vast amount of you weren’t even born yet, others maybe too young to remember much, maybe some of you were too old to go to the cinema to see Disney’s latest animated affair, Aladdin, a westernized mishmash of middle eastern tales about a plucky street urchin, a sassy genie and an evil old vizier with a parrot that sounded suspiciously like Gilbert Gottfried. I remember going to see it with my dad and my brother, I must have been about eight years old or so. It was a very good movie, one of Disney’s finest, the frankly genius casting decision that led to Robin Williams playing the aforementioned genie propping it up in no small way.

Fast forward twenty seven years and the House of Mouse is full steam ahead on its latest money making craze, remaking all of its most beloved movies as live action affairs. We’ve had Beauty and the Beast, the Jungle Book and, more recently, the Lion King and, yes, Aladdin even had the remake treatment too. Pre-announcement there was a huge amount of trepidation for this one, mainly around the prickly issue of who would step into the genies’ lamp. Robin Williams sadly passed away a few years ago and his comedy style was pretty unique to him, so having some other “zany” actor try to ape his style would not go down well with Aladdin fans.

But we shall discuss this in depth a little further into the article, for only those worthy may enter the Cave of Wonders…

moviedotCast

Aladdin: Mena Massoud

Genie: Will Smith

Jasmine: Naomi Scott

Jafar: Marwan Kenzari

Dalia: Nasim Pedrad

Sultan: Navid Negahban

Iago: Alan Tudyk

Director: Guy Ritchie

 

moviedotPlot Description

The titular Aladdin is a “street rat”, a poor boy living on the streets of the fictional Arabic city of Agrabah who survives by stealing, hustling and generally being a bit of a dick with a heart of gold (you’d better believe he shares his stolen food with little orphan kids). Aiding in his criminal endeavors is Abu, his pet monkey who, delightfully, maintains the fez/waistcoat combo of his animated counterpart. One day, whilst out performing acts of brigandry, he comes across a disguised Princess Jasmine, whom he helps to escape local justice after she, rather clumsily, just decides to casually steal a loaf of bread to feed some grotty orphans. After a hustle involving her golden bracelet, the two outrun the guards and hang out at Aladdins’ rooftop crib (read, rooftop ruin) for a bit, with the street rat being led to believe that Jasmine is, in fact, the Princess’s handmaiden.

Epic disguise, that…

After what can only be described as “a series of hi-jinks”, in which our hero sneaks into the palace to return the bracelet, learns of the Princess’s real identity and gets arrested by the guards on the exfiltration, Aladdin finds himself in the grip of the incredibly shifty Jafar, the Sultan’s vizier and trusted adviser. Jafar sends Aladdin into the mysterious Cave of Wonders to pick up a plain old oil lamp (he’s also told not to touch anything else, else he will incur the Cave’s terrible wrath. Things inevitably go wrong thanks to Abu the monkey and Aladdin nearly dies trying to get the lamp to Jafar as the cave fills with lava around him, only for the viziers totally shocking betrayal, stealing the lamp and sending our hero tumbling down to his death.

Shame then that Abu manages to steal the lamp back again and both he and Aladdin are rescued by a Magical Carpet that they freed earlier. Once the dust has settled, Aladdin is told to rub the lamp by Carpet (through some top charades) and, lo and behold, a rather funky genie is summoned!

Aladdin has three wishes, a Cave of Wonders to get out of and a Princess to win over, what could possibly go wrong, eh?

It is also worth mentioning, for fans of the original and those who distrust these remakes, that there are a good few new scenes included in this version that flesh out the plot and certain characters (looking at you, Jasmine). There’s even a new song! (looking at you again, Jasmine!)

moviedotSet Design & Effects

Right off the bat, Aladdin is a good looking movie. From the opening shot of a European man-o-war sailing through the mist and the little dhow bobbing in its wake, through the sweeping panoramas of Agrabah during Will Smith’s rendition of Arabian Nights and straight into the colourful, authentically Arabic looking marketplace scene, it really does give a strong first impression. I admit I went into this movie with some cynicism, indeed my wife pretty much had to put it on without telling me first, else I’d have hemmed and hawed about it. Those first few minutes, I’ll admit, helped to put my mind to rest.

What can possibly go wrong?

Yep, Agrabah has been extremely well realized this time around. Interestingly it has been made to look and feel more authentically Middle Eastern than its 1992, animated counterpart. One case in point would be the palace itself, which looks more like a realistic fortress from this part of the world than the shiny white Taj Mahal looking version from the original. Also of note is the fact that the city is a coastal one now, some of the scenes showing ships coming and going under the shadow of the palace kind of made me want to go on holiday there. Also looking good is the magical and lethal Cave of Wonders, those dusty piles of gold and jewels shine with a very real luster, the lion headed entrance looks as cool as it did when I was a kid (I’m pretty sure that was some very early CGI right there) and, when the lava starts flowing, it looks convincingly deadly. (It reminded me of the corresponding level from the Sega Mega Drive game, which was virtually bloody impossible!)

The special effects and CGI are, unsurprisingly for Disney, absolutely stellar. Special props do, of course, go to the magical effects used by Genie. The visuals during the songs Never Had a Friend Like Me and Prince Ali were an absolute joy which surely the most hardened anti-remake viewer couldn’t ignore. In short, Guy Ritchie and his team did a truly excellent job in bringing Agrabah alive, filling it with plenty of excellent effects and, perhaps most importantly, giving it a real Arabian Nights feel, with all kinds of colour and such solid authenticity that I could almost smell the spices in the souk.

moviedotThe Players

And now for part that really pleasantly surprised me: apart from Genie, most of the cast are actually of Arabic descent! It doesn’t sound like much, I know, but for authenticity it doesn’t get any better than this. Mena Massoud plays the role of Aladdin really well. He’s fast talking, moves like an absolute pro and, to be fair, holds far more charm than his 1992 counterpart. Once he becomes Prince Ali the actor clearly has a lot of fun, aiming for dapper and regal but coming off as super awkward and cringey in his attempts to woo Princess Jasmine.

The heir to the throne is played by Naomi Scott, a British actress with Indian heritage. She plays the role with verve and, with the extra scenes added to flesh out her character, she totally steals the role from her 1992 version, showing Jasmine as a strong, determined young woman who is aiming for Sultan, as opposed to the sort of empty, trophy role that the character was in the animated version. She gets some really powerful scenes this time around and it’s great to see Jasmine as a more empowered and independent character this time around.

Don’t let this grumpy guard fool you, Naomi Scott is excellent as Jasmine…

The big bad is Jafar, played by Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari. This character also gets a little more to do this time around, and Kenzari elevates the role from scenery chewing pantomime villain to a more subtle, manipulative bad guy who is obsessed with being the most powerful man in the room, bar none. His plot is to take the throne for himself and he needs a magic lamp to pull it off.

There are plenty of other excellent characters in this movie. Alan Tudyk gives a good vocal turn as Jafars’ nasty parrot Iago (who talks a lot more like a parrot this time around), Nasim Pedrad is hilarious as Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia and Navid Negahban brings a strong dignity to Agrabah’s Sultan that just wasn’t there before (indeed the 1992 version was, in my opinion, a whiny little pushover). But, let’s face it, you probably don’t want to hear too much about them, no, you want to know what all that pre-release controversy was about, don’t you?

Well, it’s Will Smith. The Fresh Prince himself, who plays the iconic Genie role in this movie. 1992’s Genie was, as I said earlier, made famous by the pure comedic acting chops of Robin Williams, surely and attempt to ape him would end in career destroying disaster?

I am glad, and surprised I must admit, to report that it did not. Smith has clearly been allowed to reinvent the character a little and bring his own brand of comedy to the fore and it actually worked! Yes, those two iconic songs are still there, albeit a little messed with and, well, Will Smith-ified (wicki-wicki-wah-wah-west!), but they actually still sound really good for these changes. Outside of the songs Smith plays Genie similarly to the 1992 version, just submitting the more uniquely madcap Williams jokes for a more modern, somewhat hip hop angle. His banter with Massoud is also incredibly natural sounding and believable, which really makes the pair of them so much more likable.

Some excellent chemistry between these two…

Aladdin has an excellent cast, all of which clearly enjoyed taking part in this movie. Even Will Smith overcame the initial memes and complaining to deliver an excellent performance which is very respectful to Robin Williams’s version.

moviedotSoundtrack

Wa-wa-waaaah! Wa-waaah! Wa-wa-waaaah!

Ahem, sorry about that. Yeah, Aladdin’s soundtrack holds up nicely.he soundtrack between musical numbers conveys the mood nicely and has a nice Arabic hook to it and the songs themselves are as great as they ever were, there are even new ones! Aladdins’ opening song, as he guides Jasmine through the souks and alleyways of Agrabah to escape the guards, is catchy as hell and helps to set the main character up as the quick witted muppet that he is. Never Had a Friend Like Me introduces not only Genie (and how his whole shtick works) but also introduces the viewer to how Will Smith intends to do things going forward, adding a huge injection of Fresh Prince attitude into the role that’s a delight to see after all these years Prince Ali introduces the people of Agrabah to the disguised Aladdin in a massively catchy number, even more so than its original counterpart, again almost true to the original but being brave enough to add some cheeky rap and modern sensibility to the proceedings. For love fans we still have the truly iconic A Whole New World, sang perfectly by Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud as they glide across the world on the Magic Carpet (I see you, Pridelands!). The new addtions are also brilliant, Princess Jasmine really shows her inner strength and ambition here, refusing to smply be silent whilst her father continues to be steered toward disaster by Jafar.

My only regret is that Jafar himself didn’t get a song. Marwan Kenzari brought so much charisma to the role that I was virtually begging for a sneering Jafar number, backed by Iago’s shrill vocals for maximum effect. But, alas, twas not to be.

If you enjoyed that music the first time around, you’ll love this version too. Perhaps even more so, due to some great new songs and Will Smith’s full on Fresh Prince reworking of some of the classics. It even has a Will Smith & DJ Khaled rap at the end, as close as we will get to the classic post-credits songs from Men in Black and Wild Wild West as we’ll ever get in 2019!

moviedotIn Summary:

Having seen most of Disney’s remakes by now (I’m yet to see The Jungle Book) I can honestly say that this is, far and away, the cream of the crop. The visuals and music are excellent, the cast do a fantastic job and, despite the haters, I really believe that Will Smith not only makes for a great Genie, but also pays respect to Robin Williams and his previous performance of the character. If you like the 1992 version, or haven’t seen it but like cool musicals, then good lord, give it a watch!

moviedotFinal Scores:

Plot: 8/10

Visuals: 10/10

Cast: 10/10

Soundtrack: 10/10

 

Overall Score: 9.5

33 thoughts on “Bizzaro’s Box Office: Aladdin 2019

Add yours

  1. This is one of the few Disney remakes I’ve seen and the only one I saw from last year. I did appreciate how they actually got people of Middle-Eastern descent to play most of the characters. It makes sense given the locale and it could be an apology for that original opening line for “Arabian Nights” in the first movie (I noticed they changed it in this version). There were some nice Fresh Prince callbacks like the Genie and Aladdin doing the Carlton dance for a couple of seconds or how the Genie meets the handmaiden and the line “Just the two of us?” pops up.

    Wait, Alan Tudyk was Iago? How did I not notice this? I didn’t know Wash from Firefly played the new version of that parrot!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s definitely true. I would’ve never guessed about some of the characters he’s played in both voice acting or live action. That’s fine with it being your favorite. I wasn’t too impressed with the remakes I have seen. I can tell they at least tried with Aladdin because I heard most other remakes were just complacent besides the production.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah I’d agree with that! Lion King 2019 was missing… Something. Maybe it was that colourful pallette and African artistic visuals in the songs or something, who knows? The fact they made a real effort is nice too, though can’t believe it’s a Guy Ritchie movie lol

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks! I haven’t seen that Lion King remake. Of course, I wouldn’t call it a live action one because there’s no humans in it (I was annoyed as the 2019 version being marketed as such). Haha! Of course, they filmed the whole thing in a studio instead of going to an African country, but that’s besides the point.

        Yeah, I still couldn’t believe Guy Ritchie directed it. Granted, my previous experience of his work involves those Sherlock Holmes movies, but I never thought he’d work on a Disney project of all things.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Sure thing. Cockney gangster movies? I do think that’s such an interesting term hearing that as an American, but I get what you’re saying. Ritchie is certainly making some serious bees and honey. That is such a transition getting into Disney musicals.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thank you so much! I’m glad you appreciated it. I know a few Cockney rhyming slang words when I researched some of it when I was writing my first fantasy series and one character does use some of that slang. You know what? Curry and tea does sound champion at the moment. Okay, I think a bit of Yorkshire slipped in after learning about slang from other regions of England. It got fun when I did a review for the Madchester documentary on Iridium Eye where I wrote an entire sentence in Mancunian slang as part of a joke. Hahaha!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Thanks! Oh, no way! That’s cool. I watched some videos about Manchester slang and when I was in university, I was part of an advanced speech course where we did some accent work. One of the British accents we did for one class was a Manc one to show not everyone sounds like they’re from London (regardless if it’s posh or Cockney). That was really wonderwall…I mean wonderful when we did those activities in class that day. Then again, when it comes to geography and learning about so many cultures, I’m proper mad fer it. No wonder I watch and review loads of international cinema.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Thank you! It was just one class, but I enjoyed doing that. I didn’t learn about the Geordie accent or slang until after the fact. The first time I heard the term “Geordie” was on a random YouTube video and I didn’t realize it had to do with Newcastle. That is a fun accent! I did hear Tyneside dialects when I saw Sunderland ‘Til I Die, but after my research, I know better than to call someone from that city a Geordie. This has been one canny chinwag.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Haha! I did hear about the phrase “Why aye man!”. That’s interesting how your grandfather was a Geordie. What was it like visiting that city? It must have been a mint time visiting there compared to being at yem. Once this COVID thing blows over, it would be cool to be ganning to other countries for vacation. Hopefully, my Geordie fluency is pretty new, so I hope I still made sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Thanks! Hahaha! That sounds awesome. I did have to look up what a stottie is, but I know what a Newcie Broon is. Interestingly enough, Newcastle Ale has been brewed in Chicago as of last year. This has been fun talking about different parts of British culture. Funny how this conversation turned a corner that way. There’s actually a Newcastle based documentary filmmaker named David Olusoga, and I’ve been getting into his work somewhat recently.

        Side note: Have you been getting my comments on your other posts?

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Gotcha. I wondered if my comments were automatically sent as spam or just disappeared. It’s cool that you’re flattered by people reading and responding to your posts.

        Yeah, it’s quite fascinating how that happened with Chicago brewing Newcie. Sometimes I wonder if there are any Geordies in Chi-town if that’s the case. Hahaha! If not there, then maybe New Jersey since I heard that you guys have a show called Geordie Shore which is a British adaptation of Jersey Shore.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Oh man, Geordie Shore does exist, definitely not my cup of tea though, maybe I’m just too old and boring lol! I think WordPress does a thing where I have to approve each commenter to unlock the comments, it does a bad job of telling me I have pending sometimes lol

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Yeah, that doesn’t look like my thing either. Jersey Shore used to be HUGE in the US in the late 00s/early 10s. I tried watching an episode, and I tapped out since I felt that I was loosing IQ points. Even people from Jersey (especially the Italian-American community which is large in that state) hated that show.

        WordPress can be so weird, so I was just curious if my comments went through or not.

        Liked by 1 person

      13. Haha it seems that, just after you asked, WP unveiled a few rather excellent comments from yourself… Almost like its listening! It seems like TV over here is 60% trash, 10% old stuff and 30% Big Bang Theory these days… No wonder I don’t watch it!

        Liked by 1 person

      14. Okay. I wondered what was going on. Haha!

        Nice percentages. I’m sure American TV isn’t far off since there are multiple channels that play Big Bang Theory reruns and I’m not into TV shows. The stuff I typically watch involve indie movies, documentaries, international movies, anime, and lesser-known films.

        Liked by 1 person

      15. That’s awesome! I tend to watch a bunch of obscure things and arthouse stuff, but I’m certainly fine with more straightforward movies, too.

        I haven’t seen EVA in such a long time. Yeah, the fanservice gets excessive at times, so I agree with you there.

        If you’re curious, you can check out my film review blog where I cover lots of movies, anime, docs, etc. http://iridiumeye.wordpress.com

        Liked by 1 person

      16. Awesome! That’s great how you’re getting back into anime. I enjoy multiple anime sci-fi works like Texhnolyze, Serial Experiments Lain, Kurogane Communication, and Gankutsuou to name a few.

        Liked by 1 person

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