a review by the Swan(!)
Editor’s Note: This review, like a few which shall follow it, has come delayed. We apologise for the interruption in our regularly-scheduled programming.
SPOILER LEVELS at MINOR
Hello, fellow birds and worms. Swan(!) here.
Yesterday, I and a few lovely work mates went to the cinema on a warm summer’s evening to watch the live-action remake of the Disney animation flick: Aladdin. So, before I try and vomit this article out into some sort of review, I’d like to give you a little bit of a background about the Swan(!) and his connection with Disney.
Part of the reason why I was curious to see this movie in the first place was because I (along with many kids born in the nineties) grew up with the Disney cartoons and owned quite a few of them on VHS. I remember wearing those old tapes out until the end of time on the ole’ television and renacting them with old school chums back in primary school (that’s elementary school to the folks over the pond.) They’re partially the reason why I got into acting, but I’m rattling.
Other reasons for seeing this movie… well that’s between myself, the Crow and a bunch of other people 😉
Editor’s Note: I can but sigh.
Other Editor’s Note: Sigh all you want! It don’t change nothing!
With that in mind, let’s jump on our metaphorical magic carpets and whiz away to Agrabah (or your PC). This review contains minor spoilers, but I’m not spoiling the whole thing. Merely just pulling this article out of my “lamp.”
Our story begins with the main villain Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) travelling to the Cave of Wonders to seek out this magic lamp that will bring him good fortunes. He sends some unfortunate mook to get the lamp which turns out as badly as you’d expect, as the Cave only allows “a diamond in the rough” kinda person to enter the cave. This person turns out to be the guy we’re rooting for, Aladdin (Mena Massoud), as he’s introduced as this happy go lucky “street-rat” thief who spends his everyday nicking items from irate shopkeepers and spending time with his pet monkey Abu (Jesus, just go to the Job Centre if you’re that desperate. Agrabah must have one.)
Anyways, he bumps into an attractive lady and ends up befriending her. Turns out she’s Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and since she’s sick of being sheltered in the palace 24/7, she has run away for a little while and disguised herself as one of her handmaidens. After being chased by random guards to an upbeat paced tune One Jump Ahead, Aladdin and Jasmine manage to get away safely before we get a first-hand look at Aladdin’s makeshift house (MTV Cribs eat your heart out). Anywho, Aladdin and Jasmine manage to form some sort of a bond until Jasmine realises that Aladdin stole the bracelet given to her by her dead mother (Way to win a girl’s heart, Al).
A guilt-ridden Aladdin shows up at the palace to return the bracelet and ends up being introduced to Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad) and an understandably protective tiger called Rajah. Jasmine eventually decides to talk to Aladdin and after having an awkward conversation, they both agree to go for a stroll sometime. Aladdin prepares to make his way out until he’s captured by Jafar’s guards. The next morning, our hero ends up with the desert with Jafar telling him that the girl he’s crushing on is the princess and that she wouldn’t be interested in him as he’s practically a nobody. However, Jafar promises Aladdin that this can change if he accompanies him to the Cave of Wonders and brings him the lamp. Jafar’s motivations in this remake are a lot more interesting than the ones in the original animation. He’s not just looking to gain power like the Jafar from the animation, but we find out later that he’s planning to seek revenge against a city that got him imprisoned many years ago. Anyways, Aladdin (along with his pet monkey) enter the cave, make friends with the infamous magic carpet and grab the lamp. However, Abu accidentally touches one of the jewels forcing Aladdin and his chums to skedaddle out of the cave before they’re trapped in it forever.
As they get to the entrance, Aladdin asks Jafar to help him out of the cave but Jafar wants the lamp first. Aladdin gives Jafar the lamp and in typical villainy fashion, he chucks Aladdin back into the cave. Fortunately, Abu manages to steal the lamp so Jafar’s success is short-lived. So, Aladdin, Abu and the magic carpet are chillaxing in the cave. In the playground which where they will spend most of their days. Then Al gives the lamp one little rub and a blue genie from the neighbourhood pops out and says, “You’re moving to your auntie and uncle in Bel Air.” (Okay, that was a Fresh Prince joke that fell flat). However, it’s relevant in the fact that the Genie in this remake is played by Will Smith (of Fresh Prince fame). After giving the heroes a pep talk on how to use his services via the classic song Friend Like Me, the Genie whizzes the guys out of there and Aladdin decides to use one of his wishes to become a prince in order to woo Jasmine.
So, the Genie turns Aladdin into the infamous Prince Ali of Alibabwa and provides him with a massive entrance into Agrabah (with camels and peacocks) as the song goes. Naturally the festivities do little to impress Jasmine, as she’s also trying to avoid the advances of another potential suitor Prince Andres (Billy Magnussen) who does nothing more than to provide comic relief in the film. Fortunately, the magic carpet helps Aladdin to win Jasmine’s heart and the two of them fly around the world while howling A Whole New World at the top of their voices. When that’s over, all Aladdin needs to do to keep his relationship is just to tell a few porkies (LIES! LIES!) about himself. By doing this, it also means that he is breaking a promise to use one of his wishes to set the Genie free. Rightfully so, the Genie tries to talk him out of this and advise him to be himself. At the same time, Jafar has pretty much sussed out who “Prince Ali” really is and sets out to destroy him as well as steal the lamp. Anyone who’s seen the original cartoon will pretty much know how this pans out. Will Aladdin defeat Jafar and get girl? Answer’s pretty much obvious.
Visually, the movie looks great (if a little fantastical in parts) and the soundtrack is tolerable. I’m not a big fan of musicals and much prefer to watch actual drama. However, since I grew up with the original Disney cartoons, I must admit I was bopping my head to Will Smith’s slowed down hip-hoppy version of Prince Ali. I still prefer the Robin Williams original by miles.
As for the cast themselves, well, Mena Massoud makes for a decent Aladdin. He’s pretty much identical to the character in the cartoon and I will say that Massoud manages to do the character justice, as well as provide some much-needed vulnerability/charm. Naomi Scott is gorgeous, and she makes for a very good Princess Jasmine. The filmmakers have seemed to make this version of the character strong-willed as her motivations are much more than marrying for love. It seems that she’s keen to succeed her father as the next Sultan, but naturally Jafar and the Sultan take the “women are seen and not heard” kinda approach to the whole thing. And as Jasmine’s rebellious anthem Speechless would have you believe; it seems that a lot of filmmakers are pushing a lot of progressive themes into a lot of movies these days. I have no problems with the world moving forward with the times (don’t get me wrong), but I feel that these themes tend to get shoehorned in like a poisoned champagne. Nevertheless, they kind of work and don’t do anything to hurt the positive appeal of the movie. Another example would be making sure that the character’s accents, mannerisms are close to what they would be like in Arabic culture. Which again is fair enough, as this was one of the criticisms aimed towards the original movie. I like Marwan Kenzari’s take on Jafar, as he makes him more terrifying with a subtle rage that could explode any minute. I much prefer this version of Jafar to the hammy pantomime version in the original cartoon. As for Will Smith’s Genie. Well, he ain’t no Robin Williams, but he does a good job and provides a lot of humour in the movie. I will also say that at times, Will Smith’s singing seems a bit auto-tuned at times. But again, it doesn’t do much to hurt the movie. The supporting cast are great too. Nasim Pedrad is great as Dalia (who’s not in the cartoon), Navid Negahban makes a decent Sultan and Alan Tudyk is okay as Iago. I’d have preferred Gilbert Goffried to voice the parrot, but oh well.
Overall, I would highly recommend you watch this movie if you want to see some harmless fun. The cartoon’s still superior by miles, but this remake ain’t half bad. I’ll hopefully be back during summer to review the live-action remake of The Lion King.
— Peace out!
THE SWAN(!): 7/10
THE SPOTTED NUTCRACKER: 6/10
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Here’s the official poster: