Monday, June 03, 2019

"Aladdin" (2019) -- Initial Thoughts

So, it seems that I don't talk about my fanship for the 1992 version of Aladdin enough, because my best friend didn't even know I'd seen it, much less LURVE it.  Hmm.  But I do.  I put it on my list of Ten Favorite Animated Films a couple-few years ago, even.

The fact is, the 1992 version was the first current movie that my brother and I became fans of while it was still popular.  We didn't see it until it came to VHS, but man, we loved it once we saw it.  I mean, my brother had Aladdin pajamas, and we had this great little hand-held video game where you threw swords at Jafar over and over.  (SHH!  It was the early '90s!  That was actually cool, progressive technology!)  I still have my little plastic action figures of Aladdin, Jasmine, Rajah, the Genie, and the Carpet.  Probably Abu somewhere too -- my kids play with them now, so they're just mixed in with all the Star Wars and Disney Princess figures, but maybe I should get the kids to round them all up so I could take a picture of them or something. 

Anyway, love that movie.  Have the Diamond Edition on DVD & Blu-Ray (even though I don't own a blu-ray player yet...).  Have the soundtrack on CD.  Still have all the dialog and lyrics pretty well memorized.  So, unlike when Disney did live-action versions of Cinderella (2015) and Beauty and the Beast (2017), I was a little hesitant about seeing this movie.  I don't actually love the animated versions of those other stories, but AladdinAladdin is very personally, particularly OURS.

But... I really like Guy Ritchie's filmmaking style.  And I really like Will Smith.  Honestly, I've never, ever been disappointed by Will Smith in a movie.  Not a ton of actors I can say that about.  So I went to see this yesterday.

And, y'all, I loved it.  Not as much as I love the 2015 Cinderella, and possibly not as much as the animated original.  But I can't wait to get my hands on the soundtrack.  I already know I'll be buying the DVD.  I'm considering taking my kids to see it (and covering my 7-yr-old's eyes so she doesn't get freaked out too much by some of the scarier bits).  It's really, really well done.


I love the styling, how it's sort of a Disney-goes-to-Bollywood thing, loads and loads and LOADS of splashy, beautiful, fantastic costumes on talented dancers, lots of music, buckets of glitter and confetti -- it reminded me a lot of Bride and Prejudice (2004), actually.  (To be very honest, that's the closest thing to a Bollywood musical I've ever watched.  I should change that.)  And I loved that they didn't stick quite so close to the animated movie as Beauty and the Beast did.  I feel like, if you're not going to do something new with this story and these characters, then it's pointless to do a live-action remake.  These animated movies are beloved, I know, but it's not like they're Shakespeare or something.  I mean, we even shake up our Shakespeare most of the time, recutting the text or putting a play in a fresh setting, etc.


Um, I digress.  Yeah.  Loved that Jasmine and the Genie and Jafar all got more character development.  Jasmine (Naomi Scott) actually felt less like a feminist statement and more like an intelligent and caring woman than she does in the animated one, where she's all, "Stop trampling on me because I'm female, grrrrr!" sometimes.  Anyway.  I also loved that she got to have a friend, her handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), because I was always sad at how lonely Jasmine was, with only Rajah for a friend.   I mean, Rajah is awesome, but... he is just a very sentient, sensible tiger, not a person.


And Genie (Will Smith)... Genie was wonderful.  He got to be a lot more poignant, but still very funny and sharply wacky and buoyant.  I LOVED the framing device they used for this, with a man on a boat telling the story to his kids, because it was a brilliant way of both grounding the story and making it into a legend.  It works both ways, and it's so cool.


And then there's Aladdin (Mena Massoud).  I was more worried about him from the trailers than anyone else in the movie, because I wasn't sure he was actually going to pull off being cool, awkward, smooth, and sincere.  Aladdin is a pretty complicated character, actually, even in the animated movie, and I wasn't sure that I could see this guy doing all of the things.

He did all the things, folks.  I totally dug him.


Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) was more than a one-note, sneering, finger-tapping leer. Nice.  The fact that he had a backstory and more of a reason to want to take over the kingdom than just "I'm here to be the bad guy" made him a lot scarier, to me.

Only one thing in this really bugged me, actually, and that was Iago.  I was quite disappointed by Iago :-(  In the animated movie, he is flat-out hilarious.  He was one of the first characters that taught me to recognize and appreciate sarcasm, and I will still quote some of his lines from time to time, as the situations present themselves.  I was so excited when I learned that Alan Tudyk was voicing him in this, because dude, Alan Tudyk can be sarcastic and sassy with the best of them.  Better than a lot of the best, actually.  I mean, his voicework for K-2SO in Rogue One (2016) is about as perfect as it gets when you're talking Sarcastic Sidekicks.  But they made Iago just sort of... boring.  He's just plain evil, and he's more realistic I guess, but he's boring.  (And also really freaky at one point.)  So I am pouting about that :-(

But I'm happy that Jafar never turned into a giant CGI snake.  That was a good move, I think.

And I LOVE that Genie got to have a little romance story of his own, because that was honestly the  most adorable thing in the movie.

I learned something about myself while I was at the movie.  I thought my favorite songs were "One Jump" and "A Whole New World," but I realized that nope, I actually love "Friend Like Me" and "Prince Ali" more.  It's the Genie's songs I looked forward to the most and reveled in the hardest.  Huh.

So, yeah, those are my thoughts on a movie that I hoped I would like and ended up loving.

Is this movie family friendly?  Yup.  It does get a little scary in a couple spots, so maybe not great for kids under 7 if they freak out over movies like mine do.  There are also quite a few shots of women in cleavage-revealing clothes, and some belly dancers here and there, if those things worry you.  Now you know.

28 comments:

  1. I love Robin Williams so much I can't imagine anyone else as Genie ... not even Will Smith. I don't think I'll see this, sorry.

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    1. Janet, I can see how that might be a problem.

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  2. My sister and I are seeing this on Sunday! Can’t wait!

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  3. Great review! I thought you would enjoy this one! :D

    I had never seen the original (other than listening to the songs). It just didn't grab my interest, somehow. But this movie DID grab my interest and kept me interested all the way to the end. I absolutely loved the setting. They really went all-out with the opportunities that a live-action film offered: they made it feel REAL and LUSH and EXTRAVAGANT. Also it was so cool how they chose to add that Indian influence.

    Jasmine was wonderful <3 Especially her song, "Speechless"!!!! I loved how thoughtful and forward-thinking she was. She really cared about the kingdom and it showed. She will make a great sultan.

    THE GENIE AND DALIA WERE SO PRECIOUS AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH

    And yup, that whole 'man on the boat' device was brilliant.

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    1. Thanks, Katie! So glad you totally dug it too.

      I liked that Jasmine was a strong female character who was not overbearing or militant. She was totally feminine, but still strong. We need more of that.

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    2. Yes! She was determined and forceful while still being kind and gracious. Those are excellent qualities that all people (men & women) can emulate.

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  4. I went into this expecting to hate it, but I actually really enjoyed it. There's still plot holes and things, but I think the additions made sense and fleshed out the story nicely. I think they fleshed out Jafar at the expense of Iago, and I didn't mind my second time through. Jafar in the original was kind of a tool, and this one actually has his own thoughts.

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    1. Charity, well, yes, there are plot holes. I try not to stare at the plot of most Disney movies really hard...

      Jafar in the original was so... cartoony? If it makes sense that that's a bad thing in a cartoon? I found him a nice mix of relate-able and sinister in this.

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  5. I didn't love the animated Aladdin. I know I saw it a couple times growing up, but I'm not sure we owned it, so I didn't watch it as much. It doesn't have quite the nostalgia, I guess? Anyway, I didn't care for it much rewatching it as an adult; the story overall, Jasmine's brattiness, the Genie's jarring modernity, Jafar was too much. I love the music though, and I think I'd forgotten about all the songs except "A Whole New World."

    So, I didn't thinking I'd see it in theaters. Some of my siblings went (they like the original). Then I heard a clip of Jasmine's song, and was like,"No, I really need to see this in theaters). So I did. And I greatly enjoyed it. A lot of what I didn't like in the original was changed enough plus the overall costuming, setting, etc. is just gorgeous in live-action. Jasmine is SO much better. I loved Will Smith's Genie and how they blended him into the story both in terms of his actual story and the lessening of the weirdly modern aspect that threw me off in the original. I liked that there was enough change to make the story richer (similar to the ever-perfect similar Cinderella) but not to distract from the story (like in Beauty and the Beast, also, that one was spoiled with star-struckness, too many stars)

    Because I'm me, and because this isn't Cinderella 2015 (which is the most perfect movie ever made, I kid, maybe) I did have some quibbles, Aladdin's jarringly modern North American accent. I guess I didn't realize he grew up in Canada, I feel like his accent stood out more than anyone else's?

    I think the music and vocals could've been better. Except for Jasmine's song, that blew everything else away.

    ...And then there is Jafar's pipsqueak voice.

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    1. Livia, glad you went and enjoyed it! It really was spectacular in the "full of spectacle" sense of the word, which I dug.

      And Jasmine was so much better.

      Cinderella 2015 is darned close to a perfect movie. It really is.

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    2. That's a really good way to describe it, that's why I was glad I saw it in theaters, I think I've been too ready sometimes to wait on DVDs, some movies should be experience in theaters.

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    3. I agree. Movies are enjoyable anywhere, but some really ought to be seen on the big screen to get the full effect.

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  6. I love the 1992 Aladdin. I need to write a blog post about it, actually. :)

    Your review has made me so hyped to see this!!!

    Also, you probably know this, but the animated movie was going to have bookends as well by going back to the merchant from the beginning and revealing that he'd been the Genie all along. <3

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    1. Oh, what did you think of Jasmine's song?

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    2. Eva, I didn't know they were going to bookend the animated one! That would've been cool. As a kid, I didn't even realize that was Robin Williams voicing the merchant dude -- it wasn't until I got the soundtrack as an adult that I noticed.

      I liked Jasmine's song! I liked the stylized filming of it -- it reminded me of how they do that soliloquy of Hamlet's in the Benedict Cumberbatch version, where everyone else goes slow-mo and he's walking around sort of inside-yet-outside the scene talking. "Speechless" basically is Jasmine's soliloquy to the audience of her determination to no longer be seen and not heard, but to stand up for what's right, both for herself and her people. It was great.

      Like I said to someone else above, Jasmine struck me as exactly the kind of strong female character we need more of -- she's both feminine and strong. Refreshing, really.

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    3. I can't wait to see the full song - I saw a tiny clip on Youtube and it was just enough to whet my appetite. Plus your description. :) I really like Jasmine in the animated movie and I'm fully expecting to love her in this one too.

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  7. Recently found your blog and have really enjoyed it!!
    For me I had low expectations going in. I had o ly seen the original once and didn't love it, but this one surprised me. I loved the new take genie and liked his songs more then Aladdin's songs. Really enjoyed it!

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    1. Hi, Pages to Remember! Glad you've been enjoying my blog :-) And I'm glad you liked the movie!

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  8. I'm glad you enjoyed it!! :) I totally agree with you on Jasmine... I think they developed her character arc and "strong female" persona very well without getting too heavy-handed about it.

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    1. Marian, exactly! She's not the heavy-handed, militant, out-to-best-the-boys kind of strong female character. She's a strong FEMALE. I dug her so much more in this than the original.

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  9. Both Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin were my absolute favorites when I was little. I didn't look forward to Cinderella, didn't even see it in the theater (but oh man, now I love it!), but I definitely couldn't wait for this one! I saw it last night and loved it!!

    When I was little, my older sister told me that we had to pick favorite Disney princesses. Her favorites were any of them with dark hair because she has dark hair, and she just assumed that all of my favorites were the ones with blonde hair because I'm blonde. I took it as a rule that my favorite had to be blonde, but my secret favorite was Jasmine. Rewatching it a few years ago I found Jasmine to be annoying. She was so young, too! I couldn't believe it. In this movie I loved what they did to her character. She cares for her people and just wants to help instead of running away, plus, she is older! She is now back in my favorites.

    And of course, Will Smith was 100% awesome, no doubt about it.

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    1. MC, yay! Glad you loved it too :-)

      I agree, they really removed Jasmine's tendency toward whiny brattiness and transformed her into someone to emulate.

      I bought the soundtrack today and have been very much enjoying it :-) Especially Will Smith's contributions...

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  10. I can't believe I haven't seen this yet it sounds amazing!

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    1. Skye, I can't either! I hope you can see it soon.

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  11. I'm really looking forward to seeing this and finding out what I think of it. I've heard different things, mostly positive, so I'm hoping I'll love it! (And I have to echo Katie: Jasmine's new song is amaaziiiing. <3 I love it.)

    "Prince Ali" is probably my favorite of the songs. :D It's fabulous. And Robin Williams' comic insertions crack me up: "Don't they look lovely, June?" XD

    Thanks for the fun review. :)

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    1. Olivia, have you seen it yet? Sorry it took me a while to reply. Glad you enjoyed my review :-)

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    2. No problem! No, I haven't seen it yet. Hopefully in a month or so, or whenever it'll come to DVD.

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