Aladdin (2019)

C SDG Original source: National Catholic Register

Aladdin is fine. Everything’s fine. How could it be otherwise? It’s the story you know already, almost exactly. They say the lines and sing the songs, the same songs, almost exactly. It’s a good story and they’re good songs. There are no spoilers in this review because how could there be?

When you take your kids to Disneyland and they stand in line to meet Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, they want to recognize them when they get to the front of the line. If they had Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott at Disneyland playing Aladdin and Jasmine, the kids would be thrilled.

Directed by Guy Ritchie. Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad. Disney.

Artistic/Entertainment Value

Moral/Spiritual Value

+1

Age Appropriateness

Kids & Up

MPAA Rating

PG

Caveat Spectator

Moderate fantasy action and menace.

They would be puzzled, on the other hand, by soft-spoken Marwan Kenzari in the role of Jafar, the treacherous Grand Vizier, and Jasmine’s father, the ridiculous, roly-poly Sultan, played by distinguished Navid Negahban.

Egyptian-born Massoud’s wry grin suits diamond-in-the-rough street-rat Aladdin, who will acquire the magic lamp and win the princess’ heart. Scott, a British actress whose mother is from India, blends regal dignity with fierceness in a role that tries to be more feminist than the story allows. (Massoud is an observant Coptic Christian; Scott’s parents co-pastor an evangelical church in London.)

Massoud and Scott lead an ethnically diverse cast making up the multicultural world of Agrabah, here a vaguely Middle Eastern port city with South Asian and other regional flavors.

When I first saw Aladdin in 1992, I had never heard of parkour or Jackie Chan, but I knew I wanted the action here to be something more special — to be clever, not just fast. There’s some parkour in Ritchie’s “One Jump Ahead,” but it’s ruined the way most modern action is ruined, by close-ups and quick cuts that suggest action without the bother of staging and filming it well.

Kenzari’s Jafar is less a traditional Disney icon of evil than a quietly ambitious schemer with an inferiority complex, a social climber who has risen from origins as humble as Aladdin’s, believing that you’re either the most powerful man in the room or you’re nothing.

Are deeply resonant male voices simply out of style? Watch both versions of The Jungle Book and compare the Baloos (Bill Murray vs. the inimitable Phil Harris) or the Bagheeras (Ben Kingsley, no slouch certainly, vs. Sebastian Cabot, with his rich, gravelly line readings). Compare Luke Evans’ Gaston to opera singer Richard White in the original Beauty and the Beast.

Arabian Nights, Disney Fairy Tales, Disney Redux, Family, Fantasy, Musical

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Aladdin (1992)

Disney’s Aladdin does more than give Williams an opportunity to let loose the comic giant inside him: It offers the Disney animators perhaps their greatest creative challenge, and inspiration, in over half a century.