Another well loved nostalgic classic of Disney’s gets the live action remake treatment this week, as Aladdin comes to cinemas on May 24! This redo of the famed folk tale ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ takes the 1992 animated adaptation as its template, but builds upon that to create a wholly new take on the familiar story.
This is most apparent in the diverse recasting of the characters, all of whom are ethnically descended from African or Middle Eastern peoples. Persian actor Navid Negahban provides a wise presence as Jasmine’s father the Sultan, while Dutch/Tunisian actor Marwan Kenzari is suitably slimy and scheming as the villainous Jafar.
The lead of Aladdin is played by Egyptian/Canadian actor Mena Massoud, who is mostly known from his television work, but makes one heck of a splash into the cinematic world with this memorable performance. He carries the movie extraordinarily, and is equally capable with his voice and acrobatics as he sings and bounds between buildings while escaping the authorities!
British/Indian actress Naomi Scott in the role as Princess Jasmine is no stranger to Disney fans, having starred in both the Disney Channel movie ‘Lemonade Mouth’ and the Disney TV show ‘Life Bites.’ Her singing is just as impressive, and especially in the audience favorite ‘A Whole New World’ her voice melds with Massoud’s sensationally.
Will Smith contributes star power to the cast, but is more than just box office insurance. He escapes the shadow of Robin Williams and makes the Genie role into his own, both with his trademark sass and charm along with his superb singing and beatboxing.
Legendary Disney songwriter Alan Menken returns to compose the score and conduct the soundtrack he made famous 27 years ago, adding an additional two songs to this remake. His new take on the familiar material is a suitable update to the style of the original, while still paying tribute to its toe tapping tunes.
The dancing and musical scenes also live up to their billing, with lively modern hip hop influence and unique quick camera speeds that give these sequences a distinct style. It also makes marvelous use of color for a live action film, with bright and exciting costume design and set decorations.
It’s clearly using the original classic as its prime inspiration, but it never becomes a mere imitation. The animated style serves the fantastical setting well, and additionally it tries different things with the characters in the story. Jasmine has more to do, and Aladdin’s desperation and awkwardness around her is more comedic. Additionally, the parrot Iago is now a peripheral character, which allows Jafar to be that much more singularly menacing.
Simply put, it’s a heck of a lot of fun, and an entertaining time for all. Aladdin hits theaters this Friday, May 24, so rub that lamp and summon the Genie one more time!