When Disney released Aladdin in 1992, I was eight, my sister was four, and we were obsessed with that movie. I think we've seen it hundreds of times. Honestly, it might be over a thousand.
I remember scaling the entertainment unit in our living room to reach the VCR and push in the tape (my dad would freak if he knew how often I climbed that piece of furniture). In addition to being glued to the screen, we also loved the soundtrack. We had it on a casette tape, and we'd make my parents play it in the car. Now that I realize they were in their 40s as we forced them to blast "Prince Ali," I appreciate them even more.
When it was announced the movie was going to be remade as a live-action film, my college besties and I started messaging about it immediately. We all had the same childhood memories, and wanted to experience this new take together.
On Saturday afternoon, we arrived to the SuperLux in Chestnut Hill, put our feet up in the recliners, ordered drinks, and prepared to return to Agrabah.
The first thing you need to know about the remake, is that it's directed by Guy Ritchie (yes, Madonna's ex-husband). Best known for movies like Snatch and the Sherlock Holmes franchise, he may seem like an odd choice. The truth is, there's a lot of action and special effects in this new rendition, so he had plenty to work with.
Aladdin is played by Mena Massoud, who reminded me so much of Noah Centineo (The Fosters, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Sierra Burgess is a Loser) in both his look and the sound of his voice. In the first 10 minutes, he meets Princess Jasmine in the market, and saves her from being punished when she gives away a vendor's bread to hungry children.
Princess Jasmine is played by Naomi Scott, a British actress. Though no one can have that teeny tiny waist the princess has in the animated version, Scott is stunning and delivers on the natural beauty.
Princess Jasmine has the one new song in the film, "Speechless," which is a girl-power rally cry. Fun fact: the song was penned by the same writers who won an Oscar for “City of Stars” from La La Land.
Is it weird to say that the human Aladdin and Jasmine seemed to have slightly less chemistry than the animated characters? I thought the friendship between Aladdin and the genie felt like a stronger bond.
And speaking of the genie, Will Smith takes on the iconic role, originally voiced by the late Robin Williams. On NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour (one of my favorite podcasts) the critics ripped Smith's performance, saying that the writers and producers should have given him the chance to make the role his own, rather than have him try to duplicate Williams' style. Personally, I think Smith added lots of his own flair. There's a scene where he's pushing Aladdin to talk to Princess Jasmine at a party, and that felt very Smith / Fresh Prince.
There's a lot of CGI in the movie, which will have you asking yourself - Is that a real monkey? Is that a real tiger? Is that a real boat? Think of it as all part of the Disney magic.
My absolute favorite scene was the "Prince Ali" number. The genie creates the most over-the-top entrance to the palace, and it was impossible not to sing along. "A Whole New World" is still amazing, but the animated version makes you blush harder.
The film clocks in at 128 minutes (over two hours), which is long. Though I was entertained, they definitely could have cut some scenes to trim the run time.
Tell me, did you see the live-action remake? What did you think?