The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers
Like other Disney live-action remakes, this is nearly a play-by-play of the original animated film in 1992. In fictional Agrabah, Aladdin (Mena Massoud) pretty much lives on the streets and has to steal to survive. He runs into a young woman who introduces herself as Dalia—she's actually Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott)—and she steals bread to give to starving kids. Both she and Aladdin get caught and run to his makeshift home to shake the authorities off their tail.
They talk about what it must be like to live different lives. They also share a moment, but it gets ruined when Jasmine's bracelet goes missing and she assumes Aladdin stole it. When Jasmine returns to the palace, she is frustrated that she has to be married off to a prince because women are not allowed to be sultans. Finding out his monkey Abu stole Jasmine/Dalia's bracelet, Aladdin goes to the palace to apologize and finds out that Dalia is actually the sultan's daughter.
Meanwhile, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), the sultan's vizier, is struggling to find a "diamond in the rough" that the Cave of Wonders will allow inside to get the treasure he covets. He is alerted to Aladdin's presence in the palace by his parrot named Iago. Tempting Aladdin with riches, Aladdin agrees to Jafar's errand and promises not to take any other treasure but a single oil lamp. The plan goes awry when Abu touches a jewel. Aladdin realizes Jafar is not to be trusted after he only wanted the lamp despite Aladdin needing his help.
With Aladdin stuck inside the cave, he examines the oil lamp closely. While trying to remove dirt off of it, he accidentally lets the Genie (Will Smith) loose. The Genie offers to grant him three wishes, and gets them out of the cave.
Aladdin longs to impress the princess and wishes for the Genie to turn him into a prince. It works and he gets an audience with Princess Jasmine. Despite the Genie's advice, Aladdin believes that his true self isn't enough for the princess and keeps up the ruse that he is Prince Ali. Jafar catches on to Prince Ali's true identity and manages to get the Genie's lamp from Aladdin. It's now up to Aladdin and Jasmine to figure out a way to keep Jafar from seizing Agrabah permanently.
The Short, Honest Plot
It's pretty much the Aladdin you grew up with, except the Genie is now Hitch and Jasmine is a lot more than a princess who needs a prince.
The Actors And Where You Last Saw Them
Mena Massoud as Aladdin
This may be Mena's breakout role, but he's been acting since 2011, appearing in different TV shows. He was most recently in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan starring John Krasinski.
Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine
You might've seen the English actress in the 2017 Power Rangers movie as Pink Ranger. She was also in the short-lived TV show, Terra Nova. You'll be seeing more of her, though! She's also starring in the new Charlie's Angels reboot.
Will Smith as Genie
Being an A-list actor, Will has starred in many big-budget films. Most recently, he was Deadshot in Suicide Squad. He was also Mister J in the Men in Black franchise and starred in films like Hitch, After Earth, and Collateral Beauty.
Marwan Kenzari as Jafar
Unless you watch a lot of Dutch TV and films, you might not have seen much of Marwan before. Before Jafar, his English-language films include Murder in the Orient Express, Ben-Hur, and The Mummy.
Nasim Pedrad as Dalia
Nasim was a cast member of Saturday Night Live from 2009 to 2014. She guested on TV shows like New Girl, Scream Queens, People of Earth, and played Andy Samberg's sister in Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Did You Know?
- Patrick Stewart was asked to voice Jafar in the original animated film but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts.
- Tom Hardy was rumored to play Jafar in the live-action remake. The part eventually went to Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari.
- Before Mena Massoud landed the role of Aladdin, other names in the mix included Dev Patel, Avan Jogia, and even Riz Ahmed.
- The Genie wasn't always going to be played by Will Smith. Jim Carrey was initially attached to the project but had scheduling conflicts.
- Disney really wanted to find actors with the right ethnicity for the leads of this film. Mena is Canadian-Egyptian, Naomi is Anglo-Indian, and Marwan is Dutch-Tunisian.
- Linda Larkin provided the voice for original Jasmine, but Lea Salonga was the singing voice! She was also the singing voice for Mulan and Mulan II.
What I Think:
Watching Will Smith as the Genie just made me miss Robin Williams. Will's work in this movie is a combination of Robin (who mostly ad-libbed his work in the original movie) and his wingman character in Hitch. The movie got 30 extra minutes more than the cartoon, and while they spent a bit of it on Jasmine, most of it was given to the Genie and his own subplot. IMO, if there was a character who didn't need more fleshing out, it was the Genie.
Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott as Aladdin and Jasmine respectively were great! Mena was fun and charming to watch. He also nailed the comedy of his character especially in the scene where Prince Ali meets Jasmine and the sultan in the palace. Together, they had that kid-friendly onscreen chemistry that's a little kilig but also somehow platonic (it's a Disney film, after all).
Jasmine was given a lot more depth in this movie. While the film didn't expound too much on the politics of Agrabah and surrounding territories, they did touch on her mother's backstory and how much she loves the people of Agrabah. Jasmine wanted to be sultan herself and was sick of her father and Jafar underestimating and undermining her abilities.
They also gave Jasmine an original song for this remake called "Speechless." TBH, it was a little jarring to watch because everything else followed the cartoon fairly closely, and Aladdin has an iconic soundtrack. "Speechless" didn't sound much like an iconic Disney song and it almost felt like Jasmine stopped in the middle of the movie to belt out a pop song.
Another thing I noticed was that they significantly scaled back on the animal sidekicks for this film, especially Iago. In the cartoon, he's Jafar's right-hand man, but in this film, he's a pet. While that's certainly more realistic, they could've kept his characterization since Jafar possesses magic from the beginning—and it's a movie with a genie and a magic carpet anyway! As for Jafar, he took some getting used to, but it's an interesting take on the character. Having him look "hot" and younger than the cartoon's creepy version made his attempt to marry Jasmine more family friendly.
Overall, there's a lot to like in this remake. It's great to watch different cultures depicted in a major movie. Plus, the movie looks its best when it's full of people wearing their many costumes. One of the major downsides, though, is that the iconic "A Whole New World" scene needed more shine and shimmer!
I'd Recommend It To:
People of all ages! Kids will enjoy this film well enough. It has music, action, adventure, and colorful costumes and sets. Adults will enjoy this just as much with its humor and a genuine attempt at giving depth to the characters (especially Jasmine).
I also recommend this to anyone who has grown up with Aladdin—especially young women. Sure, it's almost exactly like the animated version, but they gave Jasmine the feminist edge that was sorely lacking in the cartoon. Her sole purpose in this reboot is not just to find a husband she actually loves, but earn her power and title while subverting traditions.