The Reimagined Tale of Aladdin

Valerie Herbert

From the animated streets of Agrabah to a reimagined world of flying carpets, “street rats” and a genie who resides in a lamp, the live-action remake of Disney’s “Aladdin” brings a feeling of nostalgia for the 1992 version and its beloved characters and soundtrack.

The Disney classic seemed untouchable until the rave of Disney live-action remakes hit the silver screen with movies such as “Maleficent,” “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Fans of the classic film became skeptical of the live-action adaptation of “Aladdin.” How were the producers and writers going to add to the story? What would the new versions of the characters look like? Would the film still include the songs from the original score? If Disney was going to remake one of my favorite childhood movies, I, along with many others, had high expectations. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the film. I was pleased that the creators kept the original storyline. Although I still prefer the original 1992 version, new elements were added to the story and made the Disney tale even more appealing. For example, in the original Disney version, Jasmine is portrayed as a princess who cares deeply for her kingdom. She wishes to escape her palace walls to explore and see the people who occupy the country of Agrabah. Naomi Scott’s performance fills the screen with a strong-headed, passionate princess who wants to become Sultan to take care of the people she loves and whom her late mother loved before her. Scott’s version of the Indian princess provides Jasmine with more of an eternal-strength element that conveys the idea of female empowerment. This refreshing portrayal of the Disney princess sheds more light on Jasmine’s reason for the love she has for Agrabah and her will to be politically involved with her kingdom. 

Robin Williams is considered to have been one of the prime voice actors in the animated film industry. It is hard to imagine someone else taking on the iconic role of the Genie. There was controversy over Will Smith stepping into the role of the magical blue being, but he seemed to understand the fans’ reaction to playing the beloved character. Instead of trying only to fill Williams’ shoes, Will Smith takes the character of the Genie and makes it his own. Smith puts a twist on the role by providing the audience with a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air characteristic. Beatboxing, ad-lib lines and exciting dance moves were all included in the Genie’s song, “Friend Like Me.” I still love and adore Robin Williams’ version of the Genie, but Will Smith’s interpretation is just as impressive and entertaining.  

The dynamic between Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Smith as the Genie delighted me with a sense of friendship and comic relief. The constant bantering and willingness to look out for each other creates a relatable sense of companionship for the audience. Another enjoyable element to the film is the interaction between the Genie and his love interest. (Yes, the Genie has a love interest!) Nasim Pedrad plays the role of Genie’s significant other, as well as Jasmine’s best friend and handmaiden, Dahlia. Both characters are awkward toward each other in the most romantic way possible, providing a humorous feature to the storyline.  

Although these dynamics and interactions between the characters light up the silver screen, there are places in the dialogue that feel out of place. Mena Massoud’s Aladdin has many new lines to play around with, but there seems to be a clear difference between the delivery of the character’s new lines and the familiarity of the character’s original lines. It doesn’t only apply to Mena Massoud’s character, but to the rest of the cast as well. It is as if the actors were forced to say their character’s well-known lines exactly how they are spoken in the animated version, instead of having the freedom to say the iconic lines in a different way. 

Overall, the live-action remake of Disney’s “Aladdin” is highly enjoyable to watch. The actors and actresses playing the iconic characters take over the stage, in a positive way. The soundtrack and musical performances by the cast are powerful and caused my cheeks to hurt from smiling. If you are looking for a reimagined, delightful tale of the “riff-raff” hero, Aladdin, then this is the film for you.