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Review: Aladdin, or Brown Is the New White

"We are NOT doing any sequels, all right?"

Since we all know that Disney's latest trend of remaking their entire catalogue of animated films isn't going away anytime soon, let's just accept it. After all, they wouldn't keep making more if we didn't keep watching them. So we are partly to blame for this.

One commendable thing about this film, though, is Disney's decision to avoid "whitewashing" by casting actors more ethnically suited to the story. Casting relatively unknown but culturally appropriate actors was a huge gamble, especially after receiving flak during the film's developmental stage for the earlier casting choices (Tom Hardy as Jafar, come on). I'm glad to see it paid off.

Anyway, let's go ahead and analyse Aladdin using three different criteria. 

I am fairly certain that a huge chunk of this film's audience was alive when the 1992 animated film hit theatres, so the filmmakers needed to preserve the visual look to satisfy these paying customers. Mena Massoud is still cute enough for young girls to crush over, and Naomi Scott is still hot enough for young boys to masturbate to. Her outfit though isn't as revealing as the animated Princess Jasmine, but nobody seems to mind. Costumes here are more conservative, so no, there won't be any glimpse of Mena Massoud's abs.

The plot is basically the same, save for a few additions made. Some of the changes include the addition of new characters such as the Caucasian suitor Prince Anders (Billy Magnussen) and Princess Jasmine's handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), the introduction of the genie and Dalia's love story, and a longer and more intense action sequence in the last part.

Robin Williams' genie was an icon of the 1990s, so one of the challenges for a live-action remake would be preserving the genie's skin colour. I don't think this is particularly hard to pull off for Disney, especially after Guardians of the Galaxy showcased actors with blue and green skin. So I don't really understand the decision to go with a blue CGI Will Smith. Don't get me wrong, Will Smith's performance was all right, since he brought his own style to the performance without trying to be a Robin Williams copycat, and his best moments are those where he isn't blue.

Overall, the special effects could have been better. The CGI animals, namely the monkey Abu, the parrot Iago, and the tiger Rajah, were great. The flying carpet, too, was a welcome throwback to the animated carpet, but it looked good mainly on its own. However, the scenes showing Aladdin and Jasmine soaring, tumbling, and free-wheeling through an endless diamond sky looked kind of fake. The most magical scene in the entire film looked obviously green-screened.

The soundtrack was basically the same songs of the 1992 flick, with a few new songs thrown in. For the new songs, original composer Alan Menken teamed up with Benji Pasek and Justin Paul for the lyrics, giving the girl-power anthem "Speechless".

My only gripe is that the new songs, for me, feel like they were written in 2019. It doesn't have the feel of like a missing song from the original soundtrack which was just re-released this year but was actually written back in 1992 with the old songs. It just feels, I don't know, new. But that's just my opinion, coming from someone who grew up listening to the original songs. I'm interested in how a young viewer who's never seen the old film perceives the new music. And I'm also interested in Lea Salonga's opinion of this movie.

In case you hadn't noticed, I didn't mention this film was directed by Guy Ritchie. That's because this film doesn't look and feel like a Guy Ritchie flick at all. I like Ritchie as a director because of his distinct visual style, which appears nowhere in this movie at all. So let's just chalk this up to Ritchie selling out so he gets money to do the movies he really wants to do.

"Yes, I'm a dimpled Middle Eastern hottie. Deal with it."

Aladdin. USA. 2019.

Original rating: 7.8/10
No Naomi Scott nudity: -0.1
Alan Tudyk: +0.1
Aladdin and Jasmine's flirting and sexual tension: +0.2
Not-ugly Jafar: -0.1
Parkour scenes: +0.1
Actors pronouncing "Agrabah" with an accent: -0.05
Final rating: 7.95/10


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