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May 27, 2019

Aladdin (2019) --- "The Magic Comes To Life In This Rags To Wishes Story."

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Hello Movie Buffs!
    In the city of Agrabah, good-natured street thief Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is recruited by the power-hungry Royal Grand Vizier, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), to search for a magical lamp inside a mysterious cave. However, when Aladdin is betrayed and left for dead in the cave, he inadvertently frees the eccentric Genie (Will Smith) from the lamp. The Genie declares Aladdin his new mater and that he now has three wishes that he can use to make his deepest wishes come true, which includes increasing his social status in order to impress and marry the Sultan's daughter Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). However, he soon learns that his new popularity makes him an even bigger target for Jafar who is hot on his tail to steal the lamp for himself and rule all of Agrabah. Can Aladdin and his friends stop Jafar before it’s too late? Or will Jafar succeed in his endeavors?

   Disney animated films from the 1900s were magical classics with unforgettable adventures and soundtracks that would embed themselves into the minds and hearts of audiences for years to come. Now there a tidal wave of live-action versions of these films being made in a way that is both new and familiar but not all of these remakes have been met with 10 or even 9 stars. Aladdin (2019) is the most recent live-action Disney film based on the 1992 animated version and it is safe to say that director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes 1, 2, & 3) and co-writer John August (Big Fish, Corpse Bride) have some pretty big shoes to fill. The question is can they fill them?
   Director Richie does an incredible job in bringing the animated classic to life in a way that stays true to its roots by showcasing similar musical numbers and pretty much the same story. In addition to staying true to its roots, the film also makes room for new changes and styles that can be explored thanks to the advancements in filmmaking. Some of these new changes included Will Smith as an unknown character (at first) singing “Arabian Nights”, some new characters like Princess Jasmine’s (Naomi Scott) Handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), and a new original song sung by Scott. All of these changes, I believe, were necessary for this film to succeed in its own right rather than be a regurgitation of the original but that doesn’t mean that is is entirely better than the original. There were some things that could have been polished better and some of the awkwardness felt a bit too much but I believe the underlying factor here is that the original animated film will always have a special place in our hearts the supersedes this film.
  In terms of visuals, costumes, and music, Aladdin is colorful and magical. The sets are jaw-dropping and the cinematography of Jordan for the desert scenes was breathtaking. The costumes (Michael Wilkinson - 300, Joy, BvS: Dawn of Justice) are stunning with the use of vibrant colors that offers something new and different than what seen so far. For the special effects, the Genie, Abu, Magic Carpet, and Iago were aesthetically pleasing and more than I could have asked for. As for the songs, I was pretty happy with them, some of them I even enjoyed better than the original like “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali.” I was a bit hesitant with the introduction of the new song “Speechless” by Jasmine but it turned out better than I expected.
   The character performances were great. This is Mena Massoud ("Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan") breakout role and the perfect choice for Aladdin, bring charm and a sense of wonder to an iconic character. Naomi Scott (The 33, Power Rangers) was superb and played a beautiful Princess Jasmine, there chemistry together was excellent. I was a little apprehensive to hear that Will Smith (Gemini Man) would be playing the Genie, especially since Robin Williams did an excellent job voicing the original Genie and left some big shoes to fill. However, after watching the film I found him to be a perfect choice and probably one of the only actors who could have done the character justice. He pays respect to Williams’ Genie by maintaining the same spirit but he also makes this role his own and gives it his own flare. This is what art is. We learn and take inspiration from cultures, people, and other artists, and then create something that is our own but also speaks to our roots and inspiration. I think Williams’ would be proud of the result. Marwan Kenzari was good as Jafar but I wouldn't go so far as saying he was the best. In fact, he was a bit lackluster and more whiney when compared to the original who had just a touch more evil and suave that makes him Jafar. The rest of the cast perform well despite having very little screen time.
   Overall, Aladdin (2019) is the live-action version of its 1992, and while the filmmakers had some pretty big shoes to fill, I think they did an excellent job. They paid homage to the original film while also adding some new elements and changes that would allow for this film to stand on its own rather than be another regurgitation of the original. The story has heart and a message that all ages will love, the sets are stunning, the costumes are colorful, the special effects are impressive, and the music feels rejuvenated. The Cast performances were incredible, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott had great chemistry and Will Smith was the perfect choice as the Genie. All in all, this film did surprisingly better than I expected. It’s not my favorite nor is it better than the original but I do believe it fairly close to the same level.

Final Vote --- 8.5 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar
Alice and Wonderland (2010)
Alice and Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass (2016)
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Cinderella (2015)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Capsian (2008)
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
The Dark Tower (2017)
Eragon (2006)
Ella Enchanted (2004)
The Golden Compass (2007)
Legend (1986)

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