Aladdin: A Review

 

 

In recent years, Disney has become more invested in live-action recreations of classic and popular films. Some of these remakes include Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and the upcoming Mulan film set to be released in 2020. This has become an extremely hot topic amongst Disney fans and film critics overall. It’s hard to tell whether or not the intention behind these films is intended to create diversity or add to the magic of a story, but really who are we kidding, we all know they’re just cash grabs. Regardless of whether or not these films are being exploited, I feel as though Disney still owes it to the fans to put real effort into these films. In the 2019 adaptation of Aladdin, I believe Disney did work on the authenticity and accuracy of the culture being represented on screen. However, it lacked the effort to really change the narrative behind Princess Jasmine’s story.

 

* WARNING MILD SPOILERS AHEAD*

 

(Photo by  Disney on IMDb Photo Gallery)

 

Cultural Accuracy

 

The original film opens with the classic “Arabian Nights” song and a tour of Agrabah. However, the version we remember isn’t the version initially released. “Arabian Nights” is truly such a racist and culturally insensitive song; the original unedited lyrics include the line “where they cut off your ear, if they don't like your face” and simply justify it by saying “it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”  It wasn’t until Disney received backlash from the Arab community within the United States that they changed the lyrics. This is important to mention because the 2019 rendition of the film changes the lyrics “where it’s flat and immense, and the heat is intense” to a “where you wonder among every culture and tongue, it’s chaotic, but hey, it’s home.” It’s Disney’s active effort to correct their racist and problematic past. A line I personally really enjoy is “you can smell every spice, while you haggle the price of the silks and satin shawls” as it reflects the true feeling of a market place; instead of portraying it as a place where thieves roam. Throughout the film there are many more aspects that were changed and added to be true to the culture. From the costumes to the visuals, it’s beautiful to see this new version of Aladdin.

 

(Photo by Disney on IMDb Photo Gallery)

 

Aladdin

 

When I was younger, I never realized how important representation in the media is. It wasn’t until Disney released Coco that I saw the impact it had on me and the younger generations of Chicanx/Latinx folks and what representation has the power to do. Mena Massoud is an Egyptian actor who got his big break starring in an ABC Spark series and on Teen Nick's mystery-drama television series Open Heart. Massoud is the representation brown children need to see on the big screen because it proves to them that they are just as important in a white dominant culture.

 

I was always bothered that the animated films producer’s could cast just about anyone as voice actors because for, all intended purposes, no one would be able to see their faces; as long as they sounded like the part, it was a-okay. The entire cast for the 1992 Aladdin were White Americans; not a single character had an ethnically accurate actor. That is why I genuinely applaud the producers of this film, for casting an ethnically accurate actor to bring Aladdin to life and bring deserved representation.

 

(Photo by Disney on IMDb Photo Gallery)

 

The Genie

 

When the news broke out that there would be a live-action remake for Aladdin, there was one concern many fans seemed to focus on - the Genie. After the death of Robin Williams in 2014, many fans were extremely saddened and expressed their thanks for creating an classic nostalgic character in the Aladdin film. When casting announcements were made, the word quickly spread that the Genie would be played by Will Smith. Initial backlash centered around whether or not Smith would be able to live up to William’s iconic performance.

 

At the time of this article being written, Aladdin has been out for a week and the reviews are rolling in. Reactions across the internet have surprisingly have been positive concerning Smith’s performance as the Genie. Many feel as though he does the role justice without trying to be Williams and adding a touch of the Smith charm. I’ve seen the film twice now and although I wasn’t mind blow by the film overall, I did enjoy Smith’s acting and singing.

 

Smith is known for being charming and charismatic and you can surely hear his personality shine through his singing. Smith’s energy was high and vibrant, making his songs catchy and memorable.  He did not copy Williams at all but rather brought a different personality to the big screen. One of my favorite lines comes from the Smith’s rendition of “Prince Ali” when he directs a funny and sarcastic comment toward Jasmine stating “heard your princess was hot, where is she?”; speaking true to Smith’s comedic character. The music throughout the entire film was done extremely beautifully. It felt authentic and emotional, giving me chills throughout the song sequences. The score did not fall short on this remake.  

 

(Photo by Disney on IMDb Photo Gallery)

 

Jasmine

 

Modern discourse surrounding children films has centered around the overused princess troupe.

It seems like no matter the film, the princess character is always a damsel in distress seeking her prince to come to rescue her. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for changing the narrative around women being their own independent person; however, Princess Jasmine’s storyline was really a failed attempt at trying to make her independent.

 

Over and over again, Jasmine is told to hold her tongue and be happy in compliance because only then would the world bring her happiness. The writers attempt at changing the narrative was the creation of a solo song that would center on fighting the idea that women should stay quiet. Jasmine’s song, “Speechless”, is truly a moment for her to shine and show the world her strength. “Speechless” is a powerful song with wonderful lyrics that adds to Jasmine’s narrative as an independent and qualified woman,  but it was just that - a song. Although the meaning is prevalent, there is quite an anticlimactic feeling that comes with it. Jasmine was able to speak up and use her voice to help take down Jafar but it’s limited to that moment. Jasmine doesn’t become a leader and guide her army against Jafar or even take down Jafar herself, she simply convinces Jamal, the head guard, to side with Agrabah and go against Jafar. The song and character development would have had more impact had Jasmine not only used her voice but utilized her actions. The ineffectiveness boils down to the producers and writers being restricted to the original story. Had they strayed away from the script expected by the public, it would have caused a different kind of uproar; this is the sole reason Jasmine wasn’t written to be a more empowering character. In the end, it was still Aladdin who saved the day.

 

(Photo by Disney on IMDb Photo Gallery)

 

The overall storyline of the film stays true to that of the original animated movie. It was nothing truly revolutionary - after all, it’s just a remake. I predict a lot of diehard fans won’t be entirely happy with the remake and to those people, I urge you to step away from nostalgia and see the live-action and animated films as separate entities.