“What are you going to buy with all these gifts?” asks dazzled Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). “I’m going to buy you!” says former street-rat, Aladdin (Mena Massoud). He’s been transformed into wealthy Prince Ali by his magic-lamp Genie (Will Smith). Embarrassed, Genie says, “I made you look like a prince on the outside, but I didn’t change anything on the inside.” And wisely, he adds, “Prince Ali got you to the door, but Aladdin has to open it.” That’s the setup for Disney’s remake of 1992’s animated feature, “Aladdin.”
Can Aladdin win the heart of Princess Jasmine? Or does evil Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwen Kenzari) succeed in marrying her? Will you be entertained by this over-the-top, live-action remake? For answers, see “Aladdin.”
Will Smith as Genie is “Aladdin’s” big star. He’s funny and sends up the entertainment quotient when he’s on-screen. His co-stars are fine actors and correctly diverse. Egyptian-Canadian Mena Massoud has the title role. He’s an energetic hero, a sometime thief with a heart of gold, and easy to like. Princess Jasmine, played by Naomi Scott (British-Indian), dresses as her hand-maiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), and mingles in Agrabah’s crowded streets, snitching bread to give to hungry children. That’s where she and Aladdin meet. “What’s your monkey’s name?” she asks. “Abu,” says smitten Aladdin. “Lucky monkey,” she says, as Abu secretly steals her bracelet.
Others in the large cast include Marwen Kenzari as murderous Grand Vizier Jafar. He’s determined to rule as Agrabah’s Sultan. “Second place is never enough,” he says, dispatching his own man. “That’s why I’ll never need you!” David Negahban is the Sultan, Jasmine’s kind, elderly father. Billy Magnussen plays Prince Anders, a comic character. Frank Walker is the voice of Abu and the Cave of Wonders where Aladdin finds the magic lamp.
“Aladdin” is the latest in Disney’s live-action/CGI-dependent remakes of its animated features. (“Dumbo,” released just a few months ago, was the last one.) Directed and co-written — with John August — by Guy Ritchie, “Aladdin” stays closer to its original narrative than others have done: “The Jungle Book” and “Maleficent,” for example. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s 1992 songs are still great — Genie’s “You’ll Never Have a Friend Like Me” and Aladdin and Jasmine’s “A Whole New World,” among others. Newly composed songs for Jasmine include “Speechless,” in which she voices her outrage against male-dominated society.
Rated PG for action and peril, “Aladdin” runs 128 minutes, too long by half-an-hour, it seemed to me. See “Aladdin” for its production design and Will Smith’s star turn.
“You ain’t had a friend like me!”
Sings “Aladdin’s” magic Genie;
He’s inside Aladdin’s lamp —
Will Smith, the movie’s champ!