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Movie Monday: Highlights in Aladdin (2019)

For all you Disney lovers and musical aficionados, Disney’s Aladdin Live-Action is finally here! Aladdin is a 90’s classic, held dearly in many of our childhood memories. It took us on a magic carpet ride to a whole new world! Since it was such a magical hit back in the days, the 2019 remake had big shoes to fill and the pressure of well… not screwing up. It’s almost impossible not to compare both films. So, I’m going to list some of my favorite changes and similarities from the new film and why it’s a must-watch.

The Genie

You cannot think of Aladdin and forget about Genie; he is basically the center of the movie. Robin Williams gave us an iconic performance back in the ’90s. The unique attributes that he gave to the genie were contagious and completely unforgettable. Will Smith had a very challenging role to portray, as he said so himself on The Ellen Show:

“So, they called, and they say hey, we want you to play the genie. We’re doing a live-action version of Aladdin. And I was like, nah, man. No, Robin Williams like smashed that thing. It’s like, you have to be careful stepping into projects like that.”

Of course, nobody could ever hope to recreate the very specific genie of Robin’s revolutionary personification. When Will had to retell the story, he mentions that he managed to enter the role through the music. He found a sort of hip hop flavor within the lyrics and that helped him make it his own. We also see glimpses of his iconic persona, Fresh Prince. Will confirmed that his previous role helped shape this new genie.

His unique humor brings the character to life; he gets plenty of laughs and he is loads of fun throughout the film. Knowing the challenge that meant filling that role of the genie, Will achieved a great performance, which is obviously not the same as Robin’s, but it’s very attractive and memorable as well.


Mena Massoud gets Aladdin’s bold charm just right. How to forget that sensible and compassionate character from the 90’s version? We see these attributes played perfectly by Massoud. Also, he is almost physically identical to the animated character! There are comical interactions with Will’s genie and lovely chemistry with Naomi Scott’s Jasmine. Overall, Massoud shines best during his comedic moments, especially in the additional scenes that don’t appear in the animated version, such as the big dance number in the palace orchestrated by the genie and that hilarious scene where he meets the sultan and clumsily tries to charm his way to Jasmine’s heart.


Naomi Scott gives an outstanding performance as Jasmine. In the live-action, she gets a more active role compared to the animated movie. We see a strong woman whose choices are beyond wanting to explore outside the palace and marrying a man she loves. She questions why women don’t have political and personal power. She wants to become the next sultan because she is educated and prepared, and knows what is right for the people that she loves.

In response to this feeling of enclosure, Jasmine is given a brand-new song called “Speechless.” When singing the song, Jasmine breaks free from the oppression she has always felt and finally speaks out on behalf of her people and herself. Personally, I like Naomi Scott’s version of Jasmine more, because she realizes that she has more to offer as a political leader than as a romantic partner. Though the animated film does feature iconic lines such as Jasmine’s: “I am not a price to be won!” it still centers on whether she’ll be able to marry a man she loves or a man imposed on her. In some ways, Jasmine from the animated movie is valued by her wish to marry, whereas in the live-action film she is admired as a potential ruler. The 2019 version sets an example to little girls and women to empower themselves regardless of unjust gender expectations.


Before the film came out, there were particular reactions from fans about Jafar. Some of these reactions suggested that he wasn’t as intimidating as his animated counterpart. Though Marwan Kenzari might not have that classic evil appearance, we have to remember that most animated Disney villains are given exaggerated physical characteristics to categorize them as evil like the sharp eyes, the long eyebrows, and a big menacing smile. The live action is obviously more realistic, and Marwan did his best to show that. Also, it’s an awesome addition to the movie that we get an interesting comparison between him and Aladdin. Just like Aladdin, Jafar was once a “street rat” and he became a talented thief as a way to survive before becoming the Royal Vizier of Agrabah. His ambition is clearly portrayed throughout the film and it’s what leads him to his downfall.

The Sidekicks

We can’t forget the classic Aladdin sidekicks. The parrot Iago is unforgettable. The original is snarky and sarcastic and perfectly suits Jafar. There’s also Aladdin’s monkey Abu. Both of these wonderful characters make it to the live-action, though Iago isn’t as active as he was in the animated version. In the live-action, he spies on the other characters and delivers the information to Jafar. He even gets a whole action scene where he persecutes Jasmine and Aladdin. However, don’t expect to see the sarcastic, rude and conversational character from the ’90s. There is more realism in this live-action, which we see in Iago’s natural parrot’s voice and the limited conversations he has with Jafar and other characters compared to the original movie. Regarding Abu, he does get more screen time and interaction with Aladdin, helping him steal different things from the streets of Agrabah. The monkey has plenty of personality and becomes part of the comical response. 


The live-action introduces some new characters. My favorite by far is Dalia, the handmaid to princess Jasmine. She’s full of personality and does her absolute best to be memorable every time she’s on-screen. It’s great that they added this character as a way for Jasmine to interact with someone and express her feelings. It would have been strange to only hear her speak with Raja the tiger as she does in the animated film. Dalia has plenty of comical scenes with her love interest, Genie, as well as moments with Aladdin and, of course, Jasmine. It’s also nice to include her as a love interest to Genie, which gives us the opportunity to empathize with him and desire his liberation to be with Dalia.

The Sultan

Jasmin’s father, the sultan, has a change in personality in the live-action movie. Instead of the clumsy but generous ruler we saw in the animated version, the new sultan is wiser and more dignified. He is more respected in the live-action than in the animated version. We also get to know his reasons for being overprotective of Jasmine, which is the loss of his wife.

The Songs

All the original and fun songs from the animated version are in the live-action: “Arabian Nights”, “One Jump Ahead”, “Friend Like Me”, “Prince Ali” and “A Whole New World.” They are magically performed and embraced. Will Smith adds a little touch of hip hop to his numbers that work perfectly well and gives the songs a refreshing and positive vibe to them. In addition to the originals, there’s Jasmine’s new song “Speechless,” which will undoubtedly become a catchy and powerful anthem that everybody will be singing along to.

So, is it as shining, shimmering and splendid as the original?


The live-action is such a great movie and I loved every moment of it. The realism given to it is breathtaking: you can experience the film more vividly than in the animated version. I don’t think that there’s a competition about which film is better. Animation and live-action are two different worlds in terms of production, and comparing them seems a little bit unfair. We hold the animated film dearly in our hearts, but the live-action gives us a chance to revisit that nostalgia while giving us something new to talk about. Go watch it now! There is no doubt that it will be a special experience.

Claudia Colon is an English Literature and Biology major and a National Feature writer for Her Campus. When she isn't overwhelmed with the study of cells and chemistry formulas, you can find her watching movies, playing video games or journaling. She aspires to make a living and establish a meaningful connection between art and science.
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