I was fortunate enough to attend a press screening of Aladdin last night. And, I want to get my thoughts down on the old blog! Mr. Serious had no interest in going (it’s hard to be the generation with Robin Williams as the Genie), so I invited my friend from graduate school to join me. (No spoilers, and you know it’s so hard to not tell you more without them!)
A thrilling and vibrant live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic, “Aladdin” is the exciting tale of the charming street rat Aladdin, the courageous and self-determined Princess Jasmine and the Genie who may be the key to their future.
Don’t do what I did. Don’t go into the movie expecting to be disappointed because Will Smith isn’t Robin Williams. Because, well, he isn’t. But, go into it with a fresh set of eyes and preparing for a familiarity you will be comfortable with (all of the songs and the same similar story outline), but with characters that are a little deeper and new.
Be on the listen for a few additional new songs too!
I really enjoyed the chemistry between the characters and felt like Jasmine and Aladdin were cast very well. And, yes, I think Will Smith rocked it as Genie in his own right. He does Genie in a new way that suits him and Genie well. Don’t write him off!
Finding the right actor to play the Genie, the shape-shifting blue entity confined to an oil lamp, was crucial, and the bar had been set high with Robin Williams. The first real celebrity performance of an animated character, and possibly one of the best ever, Williams’ work was universally acclaimed, but the filmmakers were not looking to recreate his iconic performance. It was the energy of the performance that needed to be different, but who could bring an energy that would feel akin to the spirit of the original yet be distinctly his own?
They needed an actor with tremendous range… someone who could play funny and dramatic, who could be emotional, who could sing and entertain…someone like Will Smith, who it turns out was interested.
Guy Ritchie and Will Smith both shared the same vision for the Genie character.
“The Genie is both a trickster and a mentor, and he is trying to guide Aladdin to the truth of the greatness that’s already within him,” says Smith, “and I love that idea…to be yourself. For me at this point in my life, I love playing a character that is trying to help a young boy become a man.”
In the cartoon, Jasmine is a strong woman, and with her character in the live-action movie, I feel like she took the “girl power” aspect to the next level. Yes, she’s looking for a “proper suitor” to be her spouse, but she adds her own flair and strength with an additional boost.
“As the script was developing, it became clear that this Jasmine was going to be more powerful and outspoken than ever and that it was time for her to have a big number,” says Paul. “Her character was emerging as someone who would have this moment to really stand up and say, ‘I do have a voice, and I will not remain speechless.’”
Aladdin is the lovable charismatic young man you loved from the cartoon. However, maybe he doesn’t quite have as much confidence and full-of-himself-ness. Naturally, he’s still a charmer.
We mustn’t forget Abu and Raja. Yes, they are in the movie, too and fill their roles quite nicely.
And, Jafar. Spooky, sinister and rotten in is own regard. I was worried at first he’d be too soft, but he is quite the dark power hungry man that we are familiar with.
Some storyline additions
There are some changes and additions to the storyline that are quite welcome. I found them to have just enough to keep the audience engaged and wondering where they will go. Jasmine’s handmaiden is also a nice character addition with her own storyline.
To help give the newly emboldened Jasmine more dimension, the screenwriters created a new character, Dalia. A second female lead with her own story arc and personality, Dalia is the princess’s handmaiden, who has a strong and supportive relationship with Jasmine and is the girlfriend she confides in. Through their conversations, the audience is given an insight into what the princess is really thinking.
Just like the cartoon, there are some dark moments, even off-screen death. But, where this differs; it’s actual people. I think live-action lends itself to us relating a little more to the characters. Because of this, you’ll need to prepare your children for a bit of scariness.
I’m sure most kids will be fine. I know my 12, 10 and 7 year olds wouldn’t have issues (then again, my 7 year old’s favorite animal is currently a snake). My 5 year old would likely have sat on my lap and tried to bury her face in my chest a couple times, but I think she would have been okay. It’s one of those movies where you need to know your kids and know their limits, I think. The young man sitting next to me was upset several times and had asked to leave the movie. So, use that information as you see fit.
Get excited. Go see Aladdin. Enjoy the music, enjoy the story and enjoy the new fresh additions and changes they’ve made.
Aladdin Activity Pack
Click on the image below or grab the Aladdin Activity Pack here to get ready for the movie.