It seems that every live action Disney movie created these days comes with its fair share of skeptics. How will it measure up to the animated classic? What will the director do to make it unique? Did they pick the right actor to portray that iconic role? Obviously, Disney’s Live Action Aladdin, which comes out Friday, May 24th, is no exception and has created a whirlwind of questions waiting to be answered. Well, I have some of the inside details after seeing a screening that may help you decide whether or not Aladdin is going to meet, exceed or fall below your expectations. Check out my Disney’s Aladdin review!
I was invited as media to attend this movie screening in exchange for my review. All opinions are 100% mine and mine alone. This post does contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information.
What Disney’s Aladdin Means to Me
The personal connection
Disney’s Aladdin has been an integral part of my marriage since 1993. When Hubby and I dated THE FIRST TIME (yes, that’s a fun story to tell), the very first movie we ever saw together was the animated version of Aladdin on VHS. Hubby and his roommates were hosting an evening for the spouses of friends who were currently deployed. For fun, Hubby invited me ~ which felt more like he wanted to ask me out, but wasn’t sure, so he had a group of friends come over to buffer the evening. Hmmm….
After a delicious homemade dinner, which showed me he can cook, we all sat down to watch the movie. Everyone was quoting lines and laughing ~ it was a fun evening!! “Why am I not surprised?!?!?!”
Fast forward to Christmas 2015. I love Broadway, the theater, everything about the stage. Hubby knows that. For Christmas that year, I opened a gift from him that was a beautiful ornament of Genie from the movie. Awww – how sweet, right? Well, that was his way of saying he was taking me to see the Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway!!!
Yup – all the squeals!!!!!
I have to say this about that event ~ we were sooooo close I was able to see the sweat beads forming on James Monrie Iglehart’s forehead.
So, it goes without saying that this Disney story has a special place in my heart. Goodness – I haven’t even touched on how much these songs mean to me!!
But, now it’s time to review the current film!!!
Disney’s Aladdin: The Review
Did it Meet, Exceed or Fall Below Expectations?
I have to be honest. I went in as one of the skeptics. The teaser trailer, the final trailer ~ they just did not do it for me. I even saw the extended version at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and was not impressed in the least. In fact, it almost turned me off completely! I wasn’t sure I was going to like the casting, the CGI or the director’s personal touches. I was nervous about the delivery of the songs and the addition of any new ones. It was tugging at me in an annoying kind of way, but I decided to go into the screening as open-minded as I could allow myself.
So…ready to hear my thoughts?
While there were parts of the movie that made me grimace and sigh, there were more parts that impressed me. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it actually turned out. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have some opinions, but all in all, the movie turned out better than I expected! Kudos, Guy Ritchie ~ you may have actually earned…a little more respect.
Now, the funny thing is that not all of my friends agree! Check out my friend Renee’s post!!!
The story ~ does it stay true to the classic?
As you go to see it, you will notice a few creative, but minor adjustments to the story-line. A few of them, especially those right out of the starting gate, took me off guard at first and put a sour taste in my mouth. However, as I watched the story unfold, I was okay with most of the changes. The very beginning has one obvious and quite distinct change, but I think it will make you smile as you see why they did it.
The story does seem a little rushed at times, and I admit I did miss a few of the important scenes from the animated version that were taken out. However, it does seem to flow and fit together very nicely ~ in my opinion. I personally did not seem to miss a lot of what may have been taken out.
The general story-line plays out (for the most part ~ more on that below)) as we all know it. All the pieces connect and the audience should not be too surprised to see things carry out the way they do. Ritchie seems to stay as true to the story-line better than any other Disney live action has, to be honest. There were perhaps two or three director surprises, but nothing that should give cause for disappointment. They seem to fit.
The portrayals ~ do they stay true to the original roles?
Here is where a lot of people have been mumbling, groaning and worrying. Will the actors portray their characters as the ones we have grown to love over the last few decades? Will they change them at all to make them their own and how will they do it in such a way that doesn’t turn us all away?
For instance, there are some die-hard Robin Williams fans / die-hard anti-Will Smith fans who have been against his casting from the beginning. I get it. I’m a huge Williams fan and have grown detached from Smith over the last decade or so. I was on the fence about this one myself.
To be quite honest, I think he did as good a job as he could! He made it his own, but didn’t change the personality of the character in the least. It seemed to pay homage to Williams’ creation (remember, Robin Williams did a lot of improvisation when filming the animated classic) and he gave us a reason to like him being cast in the role. He was funny and witty and filled out the character well (more so in the second half)~ demonstrating all sides from the subservient genie and the compassionate friend to the all-powerful magician, etc.
Dare I say, as much as I wanted to NOT like him (yes, I admit it)…I think I did! The middle teen attended the screening with me last night and he was actually in awe of Smith’s performance. That says something.
What about the other characters?
I personally think they cast each and every role as best they could, Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and Aladdin (Mena Massoud) especially. Each character seemed to stay true to the personality we know and love and we were even given a little more backstory on some. We learn a tiny bit about Jasmine’s mother, Aladdin’s parents and even just a bit of what drove Jafar to why he is the way he is.
Now, speaking of Jafar…here is one of my “opinions.” I was NOT a fan of the casting or character development on this role ~ at all. He fell quite flat for me, was too young and had too high pitched of a voice for my liking (perhaps I have been spoiled by seeing Jonathan Freeman on stage, as well as listening to his voice in the original for years). My son, on the other hand, thought Marwan Kenzari played the part well ~ so I guess this one is going to be up to personal preference.
The CGI ~ does it deliver?
Oh, boy! This one is another mixed bag. Ritchie depended heavily on CGI for this film. On one hand, I personally loved how they created and incorporated Rajah (the Tiger), Iago and Abu into the film. I looked for flaws, but felt they were genuinely parts of the scene.
On the other hand, the CGI on Genie was just rough! It was too obvious and just felt like it glitched (that was the only word I could find to describe how it felt to me). I found myself frustrated with watching him in the Cave of Wonders sequence and in the desert when creating Prince Ali.
Rough….just rough. No diamonds involved.
Something else that many of us noticed that really became a bother was the incessant feeling that someone had their finger on the fast forward button! I hear this is a “Guy Ritchie thing,” but it just did not fit! It made things choppy and a little undesirable. It’s first noticed in One Jump Ahead and we see it again in a dance sequence. It’s just not pleasant to watch things sped up like that. Nope!
The Music ~ will we want to sing along?
And here we go again….
I am a music fanatic! If you caught my Insta-stories the night of the screening, you heard that I was all about watching how the musical numbers would be incorporated and choreographed.
Well, it was a 50/50 win for me. I did not like Arabian Nights, One Jump Ahead or Friend Like Me. However, things picked up second half of the movie (for the most part) and I did like Prince Ali (contrary to other’s opinions) and A Whole New World. I personally thought the brand new song, Speechless, was beautiful ~ absolutely gorgeous even ~ but did not fit in the musical for me!
Yeah – this will be one of those opinions that is not popular. I love Naomi Scott’s vocal tonality and liked the song Speechless, but I don’t believe it fit with the genre of the other music. It was too contemporary instrumentally and felt out of place. Sorry…..
With regard to the dance numbers, I have to say that some of them were a little too crowded and a little messy. Friend Like Me, while it is supposed to be a busy scene, just didn’t seem to work for me. Perhaps a second look will give me a different feel, but I was too dizzy paying attention to whether I liked the CGI or not.
My final thoughts and recommendations
I know, I know. I get a little long-winded when trying to explain my thoughts and everything. I’ve said it before – brevity is not my strong suit. However, I said all that to ultimately say….I actually liked it. I have a lot of opinions spelled out above, but I appreciated the way the story-line was carried out and the fact that Ritchie stayed more true to the original than other directors have with their re-imagining of Disney classics. There are certain parts I believe could have been done better, but I went in expecting a complete flop. It wasn’t ~ and I hope you come out of the theater feeling the same.
Would I recommend seeing Disney’s Aladdin?
Yeah ~ I think I would. While I have friends who adamantly say, “Wait for Blu-ray!,” I think it’s worth an afternoon watch. Don’t overthink what you have seen with the trailer and make sure you go with an open mind. Once I was able to let myself sit back, relax and take it all in ~ I actually thought the movie was enjoyable. The sixteen year old enjoyed it quite a bit!
How about for kids under the age of eight? Okay…so here’s what I know…
I did not notice any profanity ~ not even taking God’s name in vain. (See? It can be done!!!) There is no sex, but there is mild flirting and maybe a handful of kisses (four maybe?? I mean, it is a love story). There are a few scenes with bare midriffs and some cleavage, too. Overall, however, I don’t think it was that bad or that “in your face.”
There are a few dark scenes, but if your littles have seen the animated classic, you know when they are coming. There may be one or two additional dark scenes (Jafar pushes someone down a well) that may be a little dark for the younger then eight crowd, but you as the parent have to be the judge of that. Perhaps a pre-screening would be in order if you are looking to take your under eight crowd.
Oh ~ time-wise!! Yeah…it went by fast for me, but it’s apparently around the two hour / eight minute mark. Use that as a guide, too, when thinking about taking littles. It may not hold their attention as well as it would for over eight, or even ten.
Disney’s Live Action Aladdin is out in theaters May 24th
I’d say grab the family, some matinee tickets, a bucket of popcorn, a large soda and open your mind to a whole new world! Well, not a WHOLE new world – but the world of Aladdin as we pretty much know it. I liked it and I’d see it again!
For more details on whether or not Aladdin is kid-friendly, check out my friend Tania’s piece!!!
Liked my Disney’s Aladdin review? Check out my others!