Aladdin Was So Much Better Than I Expected
Any fears I had for Aladdin were easily extinguished (but others were birthed)
When you dare touch a classic, you’re going to have some enemies. The internet will introduce you to the purists, who will dissect every minute of the remake and compare them—perhaps biasedly—to the original. There will also be those who, with gusto and pride, refuse to watch the new version in fear that it might ruin the stellar memories they have of the original.
I myself fell into the second category when it came to Aladdin. I mean, how could you top Lea Salonga and Brad Kane’s A Whole New World? How could you portray Genie any other way than Robin Williams’? It wasn’t possible to top the original, even if it was Disney doing the modernizing. I wasn’t excited for it.
But I’m writing this review and that means I watched the film. And let’s just say that it wasn’t as horrible as I expected—it was actually pretty good. The two hours and eight minutes flew by on a damn magic carpet ride.
I’m sorry, Will Smith
Call me fickle, but I’m going to take back what I said about Robin Williams and his iconic take of Genie; there is another way to portray the all-powerful character and we owe this discovery to one Will Smith.
His acting was neither over-the-top nor was it a cheap copycat performance. Will Smith made the character his own, adding flavor and swag and a twist to Genie that I didn’t think I would appreciate. He made me laugh at the appropriate times and had me cheering for him and praying he would get his freedom (even though we all know how the film ends).
I’m not going to say it was better than the original, but it was different enough that you don’t immediately make comparisons as you watch Aladdin. You get to enjoy a 2019-appropriate Genie, attitude and all. And—sorry—but Will Smith hasn’t made me laugh in a while. Welcome back, sir.
…is not great. The team behind the revamped soundtrack did their best to be modern—though it doesn’t necessarily work for this 90s kid. The original songs were made more upbeat, more something-to-dance-to instead of something-to-sing-along-to. And, just like they did with Beauty And The Beast, they added one new track: Speechless—and let’s just say it left me speechless (and not in a good way).
Yes, OG Alan Menken still helmed the title and to be honest it’s beautiful on its own; it just clearly doesn’t belong with the rest of the songs.
Friend Like Me, Prince Ali and A Whole New World were big productions back in 1992 and they still are now that we’re old. There was no shortchanging the audience when it came to bringing those memorable scenes back to life. From crossdressing Genie to through-the-clouds-flying and from the 95 white Persian monkeys to the 75 golden camels, we were definitely not robbed.
Sure, the colors may not have been as vibrant, but let’s remember that digital colors are so much easier to apply, okay? Besides, the costumes were magnificent—and no, you definitely shouldn’t judge Princess Jasmine’s outfits based on a flat picture; you need to see them move.
But oh, Jafar and Iago, how far you fell
No movie is perfect and, in this case, the fault slightly falls on Jafar and Iago. The sinister pair just aren’t as sinister and as in-sync as I would have liked.
Unlike the cartoon, Iago takes a back seat in the live-action Aladdin. He is—quite literally—a pet instead of someone that has an active role in the evil plans of his master. Meanwhile, Jafar simply falls flat in instilling genuine fear in the audience.
And, of course, a feminist update
You can’t update an old film without giving it a feminist facelift nowadays. And while I’m all for women empowerment, I thought giving Jasmine a louder voice wasn’t exactly that necessary. I mean, even in the early 90s, she was already kicking butt.
If the question is “Is this version of Aladdin better than the original?” then the answer is a pure and definite “No”—but that doesn’t make it a bad film. It strays away enough from the original that the distinctions are precise and relevant to a new generation, but close enough that it keeps the same charm and weaves the same nostalgic magic throughout the movie.
Look at this way: My senior citizen parents loved it, I liked it and my six-year-old niece talked about Aladdin throughout Sunday dinner. Win-win-win.
Art Alexandra Lara