ALADDIN (2019)

Aladdin movie poster
While trying to survive on the streets of Agrabah, Aladdin (Mena Massoud) finds the girl of his dreams, who turns out to be Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Following her back to the palace, the young thief is captured by Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). Seeking the power of a lamp hidden in a dangerous magical cave, Jafar uses the street rat's skills to retrieve it. While trapped in the cave, Aladdin discovers that rubbing the lamp releases Genie (Will Smith), who has the ability to grant three wishes. Using a wish to become a prince, Aladdin must defeat the powerful Jafar to win his princess.

Elaborate sets, solid performances, marvelous CG effects and fabulous music inhabit this live-action re-imagining of Disney's 1992 animated classic. This colorful extravaganza has
all of the elements to succeed, yet it seems to fall just short of the magic that made the cartoon version so enchanting. Director Guy Ritchie ("Sherlock Holmes"), who co-wrote the screenplay with John August, stages the action and Bollywood-style musical numbers with ease. His stellar international cast delivers an entertaining and politically correct Arabian Nights tale. Will Smith takes the lead in an absolutely brilliant performance as Genie, putting his stamp on a role that is both hilarious and at times emotional. But it's still impossible to forget Robin Williams' magnificent vocal creation of this character, which made the original so utterly delightful. The multi-tasking Smith also appears in the film's open as the Mariner who tells this story to his children. Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott breathe life into Aladdin and an empowered Jasmine - with believable chemistry for the romance. Marwan Kenzari is deliciously evil as the power-driven Jafar. A couple of supporting players are worth mentioning. Nasim Pedrad (former member of "Saturday Night Live") steals a few scenes as Jasmine's handmaiden Dalia, who sets her sights on Genie. As the quirky and goofy suitor Prince Anders, Billy Magnussen (he stole many scenes in "Game Night" as the shallow Ryan) with a sidesplitting odd accent needed more screen time. Alan Tudyk ably provides the voice of Jafar's caustic macaw Iago, but Gilbert Gottfried's recognizable vocals are missed. Being a musical, the score is important. Composer Alan Menken returns with dazzling new renditions of showstoppers like "Prince Ali", "Friend Like Me" and "A Whole New World". His new song "Speechless", with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, is a striking tune of empowerment fiercely performed by Naomi Scott. For being over two hours, it moves along quickly and there are not many scares to frighten young children. "Aladdin" is a princely spectacle. (3/5 CAMS)

Rated PG (for some action/peril)
Running Time: 128 minutes

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