ALADDIN, US, 2019. Starring Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari. Directed by Guy Ritchie. 128 minutes. Rated PG (Mild fantasy themes).
The young potential audience for this new version of Aladdin, live action, will probably have seen the animated version of 1992 (and more than once), with that hyped performance by Robin Williams as the voice of the genie and the animation enabling him to swirl into all kinds of alternate disguises and all kinds of comic, even manic, voices. And, for the youngsters who saw it back in 1992, they are now in a position to indulge in a guilty pleasure of watching this version even as they take their own youngsters, the age they were when they first saw Aladdin.
And, this might be the best comment to make, it is definitely a family outing.
Most of us are familiar with the basic story, the young thief in the city, the Princess in the palace, the evil vizier with political and power ambitions, the lamp in the cave, rubbing the lamp and the genie appearing offering three wishes (urging that the third wish be for the genie himself and his freedom!), the magic carpet…
And, back in the 90s, there were those wonderful songs, the triumphant entrance of Aladdin, A Whole New World on the carpet, A Friend like Me… And there are some more songs, especially in the 21st century greater emphasis on the role of the Princess, her being a strong character, not wanting to be married off, noting that there has always been a Sultan but that he was always male and that she is a strong candidate for a female Sultan. And she has a song with an emphasis in the lyrics that she will not be: speechless.
This is a wonderful and spectacular land, the city itself, the palace on the hill, the sea, ships, lavish costumes and decor, bright design, even brighter colours. Plenty to excite the eyes.
While Mena Massoud is a genial Aladdin, adept at thieving, more than adept in infiltrating the palace, in love with the Princess (though thinking her the maid at first), becoming a victim of the vizier, giving up his claims when exposed – but finally, of course, coming to the rescue.
British Naomi Scott is beauty and charm, not without some toughness, as the Princess.
And, of course, the question on the minds of all the adults, at least, who are waiting to see the genie – will Will Smith, seen live, be better than Robin Williams’ comic style or not. Obviously, quite an unfair question. Will Smith does his best, a genial genie, smiling, singing, wisecracking, and some special effects enabling him to be like the animated genie of the original film. Will Smith likeable, and engaging genie.
Jafar is sinister. Aladdin’s monkey is mischievous.
So, plenty to entertain – for audiences of all ages.
Disney on release.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.