The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

  • Mena MassoudNaomi Scott...
  • Action & AdventureComedy...
  • Guy Ritchie
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Aladdin: Not Nearly As Magical

Seeing a movie as a child, with a child’s eye, lends it much more charm, wonder, and memorability than seeing it as an adult. So, when someone decides to remake a favourite childhood movie such as Aladdin, it will be almost impossible to be better, or even as good, as the original. Unfortunately, the 2019 live action version did not come even close and was not even nearly as magical.

This version of Aladdin is based on the popular 1992 animation feature by the same name, and follows street thief Aladdin (Mena Massoud) who falls in love with Jasmine (Naomi Scott), the locked-up Princess of Baghdad. Upon finding a magic lamp with a genie (Will Smith) inside, Aladdin sets out to win over Princess Jasmine as Prince Ali but, the Sultan’s wicked advisor, Jafaar (Marwan Kenzari), has other plans and will do anything to get what he wants.

So the plot is exactly the same as the animation feature.

The problem this time is that any adult, even those who’ve not seen the earlier film, already knows what is going to happen. So that takes away the suspense of the ending.

What about the journey to the end?

Well, there are several significant issues.

Firstly, anyone with two brain cells and a basic exposure to different cultures will notice that Arab culture in the film looks a lot like Indian culture. Some will argue that that was present in the previous animated feature, but it’s so much more prominent and exaggerated here, where it should have been a major pitfall to avoid, as this orientalist approach has been discussed endlessly. The Arab culture, and specifically the Iraqi culture, both have so much to offer, and the filmmakers’ choice to simply copy the animation feature’s racist clumping of cultures, and even take it into overdrive, is shameful.

Secondly, the characters are just bland; tiptoeing around the sanctity of the animated feature led all the actors, except Naomi Scott, to try to imitate the animation version of their characters, and therefore leave the audience with bland, shallow replicas of characters that do not measure up to the animated film.

Thirdly the acting; Mena Massoud does look like the animated version of Aladdin (somehow animated characters are always more handsome), but his performance lacked a certain mischievous dimension and was a monotonic emotional bore. Will Smith attempted the impossible, which was to follow Robin Williams, and while he didn’t exactly fail, he did not really succeed either, especially when it came to the liveliness of the performance and specifically the singing. Naomi Scott’s performance was by far the best in the feature, but the bar was not set too high; she excelled when it came to vocals, especially in her new single, but her facial expressions were just not poignant enough. 

So, what was the point of making the film?

It is so that audiences can reminisce with a half-assed version of their childhood favourite, and kids can watch barely recognisable characters wearing blindingly colourful clothes and dancing around, while the filmmakers make a ton of money.

You will probably watch this film out of curiosity to reminisce or a simple why not attitude, but without a doubt, you will prefer the animated version.

Like This? Try

Aladdin (1992), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Cinderella (2015), Maleficent (2014). 

360 Tip

Sir Patrick Stewart campaigned for the role of Jafar. He had previously turned down the role in Aladdin (1992) and has regretted it ever since.

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