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The Fresh Prince of Agrabah: A Review of "Aladdin"

Among all the recent Disney live action remakes, Aladdin is by far the most interesting. Though some songs start and end rather abruptly, Guy Ritchie infuses this movie with enough character to help it transcend its animated source material.

Aboard a humble boat sailing on a very calm sea, the movie begins with a father (Will Smith) trying to teach his kids valuable lessons in happiness and contentment as a rather fabulous ship passes them by. Upon his children’s request, he begins to sing (more like rapping, really) the story of a young man named Aladdin (Mena Massoud).

 

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Together with his lovable monkey sidekick, Abu, Aladdin is doing his best to survive the streets of Agrabah. Everyone considers him a street rat, a thief. Having lost both his parents at a young age, he learned to toughen himself up to do whatever was needed to make it through the day.

 

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One day, he notices a feisty young lady (Naomi Scott) helping his fellow street rats by giving them bread. The problem is she doesn’t have any money to pay for it. Aladdin mediates and calms the vendor down by giving him the woman’s fancy-looking bracelet. But when the merchant finds out it was a ruse, a chase begins in the marketplace as officers attempt to capture Aladdin and the woman. They eventually escape and part ways because Abu’s hands had different priorities.

Smitten by the girl, the young street urchin is determined to change her mind and finds a way to see her again. He eventually finds out that this girl was actually the mysterious princess of Agrabah whom no one outside the palace ever saw. Aladdin and Princess Jasmine share a connection in spite of their very different social standing. Nevertheless, Aladdin knows deep down that the princess may never marry someone who is not royalty.

 

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Meanwhile, a nefarious man (Marwan Kenzari), with an equally nefarious parrot, is standing in front of a magical cave known as the “Cave of Wonders.” One after another, he is sending in willing prisoners to retrieve a mysterious treasure which will grant its owner ultimate power. Success escapes him because only “a diamond in the rough” may get the treasure. When Aladdin and the man cross paths, he is offered treasures and a chance to be worthy of Jasmine’s hand. The only thing he needs to do is fetch the treasure, a lamp, for Jafar. Aladdin accepts the offer. Enter Genie a.k.a. Will Smith in blue face and a whole new world of music and magic and flying carpets.

 

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Initial reaction to Aladdin’s trailer mostly focused on Will Smith as the giant blue genie. And in the movie, he does steal every scene. The songs he performed in the movie were obviously created with him in mind as it had very 90s hip-hop sensibilities peppered throughout. Though you’d never quite forget that you were watching Smith as the Genie, he makes full use of his face to entertain and ham it up despite the CGI.

Massoud and Scott are quite convincing as Aladdin and Jasmine. Massoud has great comedic timing and just enough quirk to make his version of Aladdin his own. Scott as Jasmine, meanwhile, is definitely a Disney Princess for this generation. She does a good job portraying this version of Jasmine that’s strong-willed and very independent. In spite of the weird timing of the song numbers, they’re both able to showcase their musical pedigree.

 

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Interestingly, Guy Ritchie and co-writer John August remain quite faithful to the 1992 animated movie. It might actually be nice to watch the original one afterwards to see how it holds up 27 years later. Ritchie’s first foray into musicals, if anything, is a fun ride that’s equal parts Prince of Persia and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He still needs to perfect his sometimes clunky timing but if you’re a fan of the original Aladdin, you’d be hard-pressed not to, at least, like this one.

 

Experience Disney’s Aladdin in luxury and style at the Director’s Club Cinema located in the following SM Cinema branches: SM Aura Premier, SM BF Parañaque, SM Cagayan de Oro Downtown Premier, SM East Ortigas, SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia, SM Puerto Princesa, SM Seaside City Cebu, SM Center Ormoc, SM Southmall, S'Maison, and The Podium Cinema.

Catch Disney’s Aladdin beginning May 22 at SM’s Cinemas 64 branches, or at IMAX and Director’s Club Cinemas nationwide. Skip the lines and get the best seats in the house by getting your tickets via www.smcinema.com or the SM Cinema App.