One of the latest live-action adaptations of Disney animated classics is a fun ride that may stretch out a bit at times, but it’s done well overall with Naomi Scott’s take on Princess Jasmine being quite a breakout as well as Mena Massoud’s titular role.
Aladdin is the young street thief in the city of Agrabah who one day finds his eyes set on a pretty woman who he thought was a handmaiden. What he doesn’t realize is that the young woman is actually Princess Jasmine, who has been shuttered in the palace since the death of her mother, the Queen. Meanwhile, royal Vizier of Agrabah Jafar seeks to use his power and title to eventually take over the role of Sultan as he fears the current Sultan, Jasmine’s father, is not powerful enough to rule. He intends to usurp his power by having someone enter a cave with a magic lamp.
When Aladdin sees Jasmine again, he instantly falls for her, but is busted by the royal guards. Hired by Jafar to grab the lamp, Aladdin’s monkey Abu accidentally causes the duo to be stuck in the cave. When Aladdin rubs the lamp to clean it, a powerful Genie comes out. Aladdin soon realizes that the Genie is actually a slave who can grant three wishes but at the same time, hopes to be free from his position so he can be human again. Aladdin decides to make himself into a prince to woo Jasmine but Jafar has other plans in his plan to take over Agrabah.
When it was announced that the 1992 hit Disney film would get a live-action adaptation it was met with a bit of skepticism, even that the film would be helmed by Guy Ritchie, who had hit films with the Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Jr. When Will Smith was cast in the role of the Genie, it was met with more skepticism as he would be unfairly compared to the late great Robin Williams, who voiced the legendary genie who helps our hero Aladdin out of his predicament and becomes his friend. Williams will be immortal in the role, but Smith gives his own interpretation of the role and actually does a pretty good job. If those were hoping to see Smith pull off a Fresh Prince of Bel Air-era style to the role of Genie, then it succeeds.
Mena Massoud is quite surprising in the titular role of Aladdin. He doesn’t play the character with such arrogance, but more of the innocence of his character in the vein of his animated counterpart. Massoud did a lot of his own parkour-like moves for the chase scenes and can do pretty well in the song department. However, the surprise comes in the form of Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. Not only does she bring that sense of female empowerment as someone who aspires to become Sultan of Agrabah after her father, but she can belt out a tune as well, which is quite a surprise for the former Power Rangers and upcoming Charlie’s Angels star. She even gets not one but two new songs not in the original film.
Marwen Kenzari may bring a youthful nature to the role of villain Jafar, but he does an excellent job in the role, bringing Jafar’s power-driven and evil role to a tee. Billy Magnussen makes the most of his limited screen time in the new role of Prince Anders, who attempts to woo Jasmine in the film’s opener. However, aside from Smith’s Genie, former Saturday Night Live star Nasim Pedrad brings some fun comic relief in the new role of Cassandra, Jasmine’s handmaiden who is treated more like a sister than a servant due to the fact Jasmine is an only child. And despite what was originally announced, Raja does appear in the film as does the great Abu.
The live-action Aladdin may not live up to the reputation of the original 1992 animated film, but it holds its own as Will Smith brings his own interpretation to the role of Genie with Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott giving possible breakouts in the roles of Aladdin and Jasmine, with some welcome comic support by Nasim Pedrad.
WFG RATING: B
A Walt Disney Pictures production. Director: Guy Ritchie. Producers: Jonathan Eirich and Dan Lin. Writers: John August and Guy Ritchie. Cinematography: Alan Stewart. Editing: James Herbert.
Cast: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwen Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Numan Acar, Billy Magnussen, Jordan Nash, Taliyah Blair.