Review: Aladdin (2019)

Let it be known that I’ve been waiting for this movie even before the first teaser came out (which was in October 2018). I’ve been waiting for a much longer time: since I heard about a live-action remake of Aladdin when I did some research on Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and so on. So yes, I went crazy when the first teaser came out, rewatched the actual trailer about a 100 times (no lie, I’ve watched it ever single day in the last two weeks), and I’ve pretty much sucked in everything there is out there about the movie.

So, yes, guess what, Aladdin (together with The Lion King) is my favorite Disney movie. I’ve watched Aladdin more than any other Disney movie and I know the lyrics by heart (funny enough, I learned the actual lyrics when I was a grown-up and not when I was a child 😀 ). Yeah, I bet after reading this, you would’ve never guessed it is my favorite Disney movie, keke.

Well, all that aside – with this you should know, the expectations were big…like reaaaally BIG. This is like a dream coming true and the dream better be darn good! So here it is, my review for Aladdin (2019).

General information

If you don’t know Aladdin (1992), then, well, did you ever have a childhood? No, seriously, Aladdin is a 2019 musical film based on the 1992 Disney movie of the same name. I wasn’t even born then, hm…
The movie tells the story of Aladdin, a thief who lives on the streets of Agrabah. One day he meets the princess of Agrabah, Jasmine, who went into the city in disguise, so she can have a free moment from being stuck in the palace and having to think about her upcoming marriage to some not-yet-determined prince. They have a moment but then Aladdin is taken on a mission by the (evil) vizier, Jafar, and he has to go into a magical cave to find a special oil lamb. After some events happen Aladdin gets stuck and as it turns out the lamp is home to a genie. After freeing the genie from the lamp Aladdin is now its new master and has three wishes to make.

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The story has more than just a few flaws and I think some of its content is not really political correct either anymore. The animation was probably every animators nightmare (Genie’s power and his song sequences, omg). But the movie fits just so well together and totally takes you into Aladdin’s world and forget everything else. And the songs are just amazing. Aladdin is probably one of the more known Disney stories out there and it’s also one that got a second installment that didn’t totally suck. (not gonna talk about the third installment though, oh god, I’m still getting nightmares…that one was so…uuuuh).

Whether you liked it or not, it IS one of the most anticipated live-action remakes after Disney announced they were gonna remake their classics. Especially because it is a lot of fantasy and everyone knew it had to be great. So, now let’s talk about the 2019 version.

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Staying true to the original

The 2019 version of Aladdin, after watching the original version just last week, stays quite true to the original, I’ve to say. Around the end the story adds some actions by the characters and twists some things happening but in general it stays quite true to the original story line and development. If you know some of the plot holes and nonsense happenings in the original though, you also notice that they tried to fill some of them and make it more understandable and less…well, fiction?

There are a lot of new things too though. Of course, they remade some of the old songs and inserted some new songs too but let’s talk about the songs later.

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For one they changed a lot of the humor and jokes in the movie. There is one scene where the whole cinema laughed like crazy and I had serious problems calming down. Watch the movie and you’ll know what I’m talking about. The humor in the 2019 Aladdin is a lot more modern and dynamic than it’s original. Some of the jokes were definitely updated to not get in trouble but most of the humor comes either from totally new scenes, as well as a new spin on original scenes. I think that’s because they did try to add some more comedy and not just present everyone with the totally same story we all know. Also because a lot of fun in the original comes from the Genie’s powers. In the 2019 film, everyone and not just the Genie contributes to the fun.

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Character changes

Also we got a lot of new characters and character development. Remember, the original is an animated children’s movie. Movies like that tend to have like 10 characters at most and not really show anyone else (in Aladdin there are like 3 people, a tiger and a parrot living in the palace…a palace that has only 3 security people…sooo, do I have to continue?). That is something you cannot convert 1-to-1 to a live-action movie, so they had to add more characters and background characters. And they did well. There are some characters just for comic relief but also our main leads and main characters got a lot more background and character traits.

Aladdin is not just a true to heart guy from the streets who may be lying about his identity but still has his heart at the right place. In the 2019 version, you actually get some character where you see he may know his way around the streets but in the palace he gets serious self confidence problems and while he hopes he is worth more than everyone tells him all the time, he doubts himself more than everyone else. Still his heart is at the right place and he does realize when he goes too far. He seems a lot more human and relatable than his animated character, while also having a little bit less heroic and “perfect” traits about him.

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In the original, Jasmine is the beautiful princess that has to marry a prince and feels trapped by the palace. The only time she seems stronger is when she tries to help fight Jafar, as well as fight against having to marry a prince she doesn’t love. In general though she is defined by having to marry and wanting to marry someone she loves instead of just anyone. The 2019 version gives us a new spin on her. Jasmine may still be a princess trapped in the palace who does not know much about the world outside but she still wants the best for her people and wants to rule as sultan one day instead of just marrying and having a prince from somewhere else in the world, rule over her people. She fights for her dream and compared to the original she is also a lot more suspicious over Aladdin’s – or Prince Ali’s – origins.

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The Genie’s story has pretty much stayed the same, as well as Jafar’s. The Genie got some after the main story input and like a “end” story and Jafar got some background story, that was probably also added to give some reason why he acts like he acts and not just take it as a given. Also I really appreciated the fact, the sultan wasn’t just a little guy who likes to play with his little miniature figurines but actually had some backbone.

Compliments for the Cast

Mena Massoud was astounding as Aladdin. I didn’t know him before, even though I actually did watch the show Jack Ryan and so on but I just didn’t really know him. So when it was announced he was gonna play Aladdin I was curious how he would go about it and he did a great job. He portraited Aladdin’s good traits and warm heart but at the same time gave life to Aladdin’s little insecurities about himself. He showed that Aladdin himself didn’t feel great when he had to play someone he wasn’t. It was also endearing how he had this little smile that on one hand could show him enjoying himself, as well as being shy. Also, Massoud did a great job at portraying Aladdin’s awkwardness too. I’m curious what’s gonna come in the future.

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I knew Naomi Scott before her acting as princess Jasmine. Her other roles where really different though. But since I had seen her before I was curious how she would play Jasmine. I was curious but also worried. I wouldn’t have needed to worry, she did a great job. She shows Jasmine’s weak as well as her powerful and empowered side. She was amazingly believable as a princess with a strong will and dream. She showed tears in her eyes while not actually crying and she wasn’t just a princess but a strong woman who could think of her own and be suspicious, angry or just annoyed too. Oh and just as a side not: she was oh-so beautiful. When I watched the movie, my friends and I just gasped at how beautiful she looked. She is definitely the best cast for acting as a Disney princess.

Also Massoud and Scott’s chemistry is really good and I love that Disney made them audition together too and not just accept the cast individually. They are great together and really fit well together as Aladdin and Jasmine.

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Will Smith was criticized a lot for portraying the Genie. A lot of people commented on how he could ever fill the shoes left behind by Robin Williams. Let me just say something here: Robin Williams is absolutely great, he is. I just love him and his movies and I rewatch the regularly BUT I did not watch Aladdin in English originally. So I was never really fixated on the Genie being him. For me it was the animation and the story I loved. So that pressure wasn’t so big. Still, I know Will Smith as a funny, modern guy who was more “cool” than “magical”, so I had my doubts he could fit into the Disney movie in general. But Will Smith surprises. He does great as the Genie. He gives the whole character a new modern and dynamic spin while also staying true to the original. I also loved how he portraited Genie a lot smarter and more serious in specific matters than the role had been before.

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The one thing I have to criticize is Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. Not because he did a bad job or anything, because he did really well, but because he just seemed too nice…His voice had a charm to it, that I did not see as Jafar at all. He seemed a lot less threatening than I would have expected, tbh.

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Listen to the music

Well, Aladdin is one of the Disney movies known for their music. I think there aren’t many Disney movies more known than the music in Aladdin. The Lion King definitely but Aladdin is one of the movies where there is more than one known song out there.

So the pressure for the music is great.

In general the music stayed the same, except for making it a little more “great” and giving it more volume and therefore making it a little less melodic. I do regret that some of it’s greatest melody parts get lost in the full on sound of the songs but the songs still enchant you and I did catch myself trying to sing to it in the cinema. I definitely tapped my foot to it though.

There ARE some new song parts and songs there though. Most prominently “Speechless”. If the movie wasn’t as entertaining as it is and it did not fit as well into the story line as it did, I would have some negative points here though. The song is great, really, but you totally notice it is a new song. The song is so modern, you notice in like the first 10 seconds of it. If you put it before me and I hadn’t seen the movie I would not think it is part of the songs since the others are typical 90s Disney songs, whether they were modernized or not. “Speechless” is a modern song. It is a great and touching song, but it is definitely a new song. Even if you haven’t known the Aladdin songs, you will realize that this is the song that was added for the 2019 version of Aladdin.

As for the animation to the songs – I never expected them to give us so much Genie animation and I loved it. Friend Like Me is even more funky than before, Prince Ali is just as epic and stunning and the A Whole New World sequence may be less funny compared to the original but is still as touching and wonderful. The one that did surprise me for real was Arabian nights – 2 minutes into the movie and it gives you chills when the song chorus comes on.

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Take the little hints

As I said I did watch the original film just a few days earlier to renew my memory and be ready for Aladdin to come out and then on the 24th I watched it in the cinema.
So, if you watch Aladdin (1992) and the 2019 version, you notice some interesting things. Some just warm your heart, some, you notice, fill some really big holes in the story line. Let me just name a few things here.

I absolutely adored that they used the originals font of the main title and the “The End” note. It may have more volume and be a lot more golden but it is the same – or almost the same.

Also we have a lot of things filled in because some things you can get away with in an animated movie but not in a live-action. Most notably the scene where Abu steals the lamp back from Jafar. In the animation he just magically takes it out from his jacket (which is totally not possible since the lamp is pretty much the same size as the monkey in general), in the 2019 version he immediately puts it before Aladdin, after it fell behind a rock. Just as an example.

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Another thing I really laughed about. When the Genie tells Aladdin about how the Genie’s power works and how powerful he actually is. He takes a little paper and there are three people on there. The Genie, the sultan and Aladdin. And they are all in the original animation. I just loved that. Such a little thing but so sweet.

Synchronisation is…well…

Like I mentioned I did not watch the movie in English at first. I watched it in German on Friday and then watched it again in English on Saturday…yes, that’s something I do. Go watch the same movie two days in a row.

But let me just say something about the synchronization here. The English version: The songs were better, a lot better, and I think they stayed quite the same as the original as far as the lyrics go. The German version changed a lot about the lyrics actually and while the comedic scenes became even better since Aladdin seemed even more awkward, the song synchronization was waaaaay off. You could totally notice. I’m not totally unhappy about it since I can watch the movie in English and the comedy totally made up for it but I just think for all those out there who think that their voice synchronization isn’t perfect and the movie seems unnatural, watch it in English.

The bad things

Like with every movie out there I am going to mention the bad things too. If you were a big fan of Iago or Abu, don’t expect much. Abu is still a good friend and sometimes funny but he has a lot less scenes and Iago is pretty much just a parrot who tends to repeat stuff. I know why they cut their scenes but still it hurts just a little.

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Another thing I didn’t like. They used slow-motion and double speed some times. And while the slow motion was no problem at all, I really did not appreciate the double speed in the One Jump Ahead scene. It didn’t belong there at all. It was fine in the ending scene but nope, did not like it in the other scene.

Also talking about the dancing and the final dancing scene. The dancing scene in the middle was fun and really good with a modern twist I admit. The final scene was fun and all but there were some parts they really did not take seriously there. I don’t think that’s really a bad thing though. It is the finale and just like an extra scene so no hurt there.

Overall conclusion

Overall, I ABSOLUTELY recommend the movie. Really. I think Aladdin is one of Disney’s best and most wonderful classics and the movie is a two hour adventure you should see. While some criticized Disney’s decision to let Guy Richie direct the movie I think he stayed true to the 1992 original: It just takes you in and doesn’t let you go until you leave the cinema. You are just gonna forget everything around you. And I think for a movie where you actually know exactly what is gonna happen, that is a big thing to do ^.^

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