Disney has done it again: there is another one. Apparently live action Disney movies are today’s big thing and this time, it knocks you right off your feet. Our bold (not yet bald) *tba movie squad took the chance to find out whether Aladdin 2k19 would take you to a whole new world or not. We have to admit that we had our reservations about the adaptation, but let’s be honest, who hasn’t? First of all: Guy Ritchie directed this Disney piece. You might know him since he’s the dude who brought us several semi-enjoyable movies such as King Arthur (Jude Law probably needed the money.) and the two Sherlock Holmes movies with… Jude Law (still needed money). Second of all: everything else.
But we should not lose ourselves in criticism before the actual review, so forget about that. This time, we have not divided the review into two parts since almost everyone has seen the original movie and if not, had at least twenty years to catch up. Also, you should prepare yourself for strong opinions (Editor’s note: …and strong language) spiced up with some quality commentary.
We don’t promise too much when we say: we can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over paragraphs and under on a magic review ride!
If you had to give the movie a new title, what would it be?
jigglypuff420: A lad loses a lamp a bunch of times.
Summarize Aladdin in one sentence.
Hamiltrash: Let me go listen to the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Disney’s Aladdin the Musical, please.
What escalated very quickly?
jigglypuff420: The straight couple sat next to me was really annoying, so yeah, my anger at them escalated quickly. Concerning the movie, I’d probably say the love story between Jasmine and Aladdin, that ends (spoiler alert) with them marrying. Like, you met him on Sunday, Jasmine, and it’s barely Thursday morning. Slow down, crazy. Slow down.
With what expectations did you go into the movie theatre?
Hamiltrash: If you know me (Editor’s note: Oh honey, how could we not?), you won’t be surprised that I had great expectations regarding the music but a kind of defeated acceptance when it comes to the cast, especially Will Smith. I was definitely surprised, both positively and negatively. The music was… a ride. It truly frightens me that a new generation might grow up with the new “cool, poppy” version of Friend Like Me instead of the comedic masterpiece that it was on the original soundtrack or the musical version. (Don’t come for me, this is the one thing I know about.)
When it comes to the cast… oh boy. I was surprisingly grateful for Will Smith because for most of the movie, Mena Massoud (Aladdin), the movie’s centrepiece, just couldn’t get me to truly care about him or be convinced that a smart, self-confident and self-respecting princess would fall for him. Speaking of the princess: Naomi Scott’s Princess Jasmine is the well-rounded, expanded character from the animated classic given a bit more agency and a YAS QUEEN moment in the new song Speechless (the one song that was nicely arranged). At the risk of making this answer terribly long, a few words about the new Jafar, Marwan Kenzari: a shocking contrast to the mature, subtly threatening voice of Jonathan Freeman.
To what extent did the movie fit your expectations? Did it subvert or surpass them?
LocalGranny: I’ve pretty much only heard people talk about how awful the movie is, so, accordingly, my expectations were incredibly low. (Almost as low as my self-esteem! Hahaha!) This meant that I was actually pleasantly surprised! It’s certainly not a good movie, don’t get me wrong, but it’s fun and they stuck pretty closely to the original. As someone who watched the original Aladdin around 50 times, I am an expert when it comes to the source material.
Did the movie make you angry? Rate on a scale from ‘Any Simon Pegg Movie’ (much amusement) to ‘Game of Thrones Finale’ (as infuriated as Grey Worm)?
LocalGranny: Nah, some scenes felt slightly awkward, but at no point was I angry. A movie like Aladdin is inherently going to be a bit strange as live action, just because the original movie is already so over-the-top and ridiculous and some of the changes improved the story immensely (i.e. giving female characters agency and moving away from the blatant Orientalism of the animated version).
Hamiltrash: The movie itself did not make me angry, to my great surprise, because over all I quite liked it. What truly made me furious were the new arrangements of the songs: especially for Friend Like Me. WHY did they run from the fun, musical theatre vibe of the animated classic and make it into this pseudo-rap, uncharismatic hellride? Why is the only singer, Naomi Scott, the one with the least iconic songs AND the least actual singing time? Why do the added/altered lyrics to the old songs stand out this much? So yes, the aspect I actually went to see the movie – a FUCKING Disney musical – for made me angry and sad. (Editor’s note: Language!)
no_name: Now I want to watch some good ol’ Hot Fuzz. For the Greater Good. (Hamiltrash: The Greater Good.)
If you could meet one of the characters, who would it be?
jigglypuff420: I guess it would be the handmaiden, who is kind of a bit naïve, but in a charming, endearing way. You know, just like me! And I too am a comic relief character in everyone’s life. (Hey, how can I make all these questions about myself?)
If Aladdin was a family member, which one would it be, and would you invite them to your divorce party?
LocalGranny: What in the ever-loving frick is a divorce party? Is that a thing that people do? What is going on? Am I getting old?
Robin Williams or Will Smith?
LocalGranny: I don’t understand the online discussion on this and why people are acting as though this is a binary choice to be honest? Robin Williams was great in the animated version and Will Smith did a great job in the live version! Genie is a larger-than-life character (literally) and one that is very difficult to portray in a live action version and I think that Will Smith did as good of a job as is possible.
Hamiltrash: This is, to be completely fair, not a question we should be asking. Genie’s character was created with Robin Williams in mind, it’s only logical that he gave the more memorable performance. Seeing as his take on the character has become so iconic (one might say: often imitated, never duplicated – see what I did there?), any other actor to take on the role can only fall short in comparison. However, to Will Smith’s credit, I was actually pleasantly surprised by his overall presence and the charisma he brought to the role. The one thing that threw me off and established Robin Williams as the one true superior Genie is Will Smith’s “singing”… I just can’t.
Women. Are they even in the movie, if so, how are they portrayed?
LocalGranny: Yes, they are! It’s obviously not the most progressive, most perfect portrayal of women (It’s a Disney live action movie, I never expected it to pass the Bechdel test.), but there are at least some ways in which this adaption deviates from the source material to improve its portrayal of women at least a bit. We have a strong female friendship (non-existent in the original version) and Jasmine’s main goal in live shifts from finding love (original Aladdin movie) to that of becoming Sultan and improving the lives of her people, a goal which she ultimately achieves. I was personally glad to see the changes that were made to give the female protagonist more agency, something that was definitely lacking in the original.
Hamiltrash: Two speaking women (except for the tiny musical number solos that the score asks for), one of them comic relief with a heart of gold. So really the one “serious” female part is Princess Jasmine, which was, extended, stretched, beefed up, if you will, in range and importance for the plot. While in the animated movie Jasmine is defiant and wants more freedom, mainly in choosing to marry someone who is not a rich idiot, 2k19 Jasmine wants to become the first female Sultan, being the most fitting and qualified person to rule Agrabah. There is, of course, the iconic “I am not a prize to be won” scene, slightly altered to include both comic relief and an Aladdin struggling to say anything that is not insulting and… bad, just to make sure everyone understands why Jasmine would be bothered by what he was saying. One plot point that was slightly altered was Jasmine actually becoming Sultan and having the power to change the law herself and marry Aladdin, instead of being allowed to do so by her father, who at last approved of her choice.
no_name: Jasmine’s new song Speechless reminded me of the lady-squad battle sequence in Avengers: Endgame. It was fine, but there could have been more (Never enough. Never. Never!), especially since Jasmine’s actress seemed to be the only professional singer.
Who would you force to watch this movie over and over again?
jigglypuff420: Considering that I was entertained and it wasn’t as horrible as a lot of people said, I can’t really think of anyone I’d force to watch this movie over and over again. I was pretty happy with the people I’ve watched it with and I don’t necessarily think that I’d watch it again soon-ish, so I guess no one? But it seems like a great movie for like a casual date because you don’t really have to pay much attention to it and can make jokes to sort of get used to one another. That’s right, I’m a dating expert!
Jafar. Was he what you wished for?
Hamiltrash: As soon as I saw the trailer, I was… wary of this casting. Jonathan Freeman brings a gravity and sincerity to an otherwise comedic cartoon that Marwan Kenzari isn’t able to bring to this movie. It might have to do with the age difference or the vocal range. (Even though Jafar was robbed of his song, which is an actual crime.) He struggles to make the character appear as a real threat and not an entitled f***boy with overachieving tendencies (Editor’s note: LANGUAGE!). The smaller age gap between Jasmine and Jafar makes their interactions lack the well-known “older man thinks he knows better than young woman” and substitutes this with good old peer sexism. But also… this young man being the closest advisor to the sultan and somehow having the audacity to keep wanting more and disrespecting everyone else is such a hegemonic-masculinity-thing.
What would you call the sequel?
jigglypuff420: “They lost the lamp. Again? What a bunch of f****** idiots!” (Editor’s note: lang- * sighs*…never mind) or “And I oop- Jafar is back!”
On that note: this is the end of our Aladdin review. We know, dear reader, that now, after providing you once more with a delicate description of cinematic experience, you will know what to do. The *tba Movie Squad wishes you a fun time with whatever you decide to do. Maybe you read a book. Maybe you spend your free time on the Twitter. Who knows?
But before you fall into despair: the *tba Movie Squad will be back soon. As Jasmine taught us: we won’t be silenced. They can’t keep us quiet. Won’t tremble when they try it. All we know is we won’t go speechless.
Yours sincerely and emphatically,
the *tba Movie Squad