Disney’s latest live-action adaptation takes us to the fictional land of Agrabah, located in a general area of the globe. Aladdin stars Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, along with Will Smith taking on the iconic role of Genie (famously remembered as voiced by the late Robin Williams).
As a hesitant viewer, I was not expecting much from Guy Ritchie’s take on the beloved animated film. While the casting decisions were good intentioned, I’m still not sold on the idea of casting people generally from an area or region to play the same race. Massoud is of Egyptian decent while Scott is South Asian, not to mention Navid Negahban in the role of her father, The Sultan, is Persian. These are three different regions and are very different cultures and ethnicities. That said, the actors’ performances were incredible and the update to the storyline, albeit slight, was greatly appreciated.
While many will talk about Massoud and Scott’s natural chemistry and ability to bring authenticity to a previously animated character, it was Smith that should be applauded. The role of Genie is cherished for the way it was in 1992, but Smith brought his own swagger and style to create a new Genie that could be admired on it’s own.
Ritchie was not the obvious choice to bring this Disney film to live, nor was he the right one. His decisions to apply his slow and fast cinematographic style was not necessary, but his choices to skip some of the more fantastical elements – such as Jaffar becoming a snake or pretending to be an old man – were surprising in movie with a Genie and Flying Carpet, but it may have been the right call.
The iconic songs from the animated film were there, in addition to a new song for Jasmin, but they didn’t need to be. This live-action remake could’ve been just fine without Aladdin and Jasmin singing… but like, “Friend Like Me” is a necessity regardless.
Disney’s Aladdin hits theaters Friday, May 24th.
— Yael Tygiel