Then vs. Now: Aladdin

Released 11/25/1992                              Rated: G

This movie is perfect. Everything from the casting, to the animation, to the way the characters play off each other, to the story, to Genie’s pop culture-reference infused antics, to the songs; ALL OF IT! I’ve actually had a difficult time coming up with something to say about this movie.

Robin Williams will always be my Genie. He turned that character into the iconic presence everyone thinks of when they think of this movie. But in rewatching all these Disney animated classics lately, I’ve found that I really appreciate the villains more than I ever thought I would. Jafar might be my favorite. His voice is like butter. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants including posing as an old crippled prisoner to gain Aladdin’s trust. He utilizes secret passageways throughout the palace that no one else knows about. Iago’s loud comic relief offsets Jafar’s cool exterior, but inside he seems to have a bit of a temper.

One thing that the live action didn’t copy: this film gets dark. Jafar causing chaos as everyone’s going for the lamp is some heavy shit! He traps Jasmine in a giant hourglass and she eventually passes out from being buried in the sand. He turns Abu into a wind-up toy. He UNRAVELS Carpet!!! He sets fire to the palace and turns Raja into a kitten. (The live action does none of this, by the way. Very disappointing.)

Another thing the animated does that the remake didn’t was letting us get to meet Aladdin and Jasmine (and Jafar) before they meet each other. We learn who they are and what they want. This gets us invested in these characters and the rest of the movie. The remake cold opens on Aladdin freerunning through the bazaar when he spots Jasmine who helps some kids. It doesn’t work as well and it took me longer to get invested in the remake.

Released 05/24/2019                              Rated: PG

I’m not going to lie, my movie experience was not great. The theater was packed for a Tuesday night (then again, school is out), we ended up stuck in the front row, the sound system was off so that the main dialogue was way too low, and some guy’s cell phone went off like three times! But whatever. For not having any expectations (I worked very hard to see only the very first teaser trailer) the movie’s not bad. I don’t think it’s all that great, but I do feel like I need to see it again to fully experience it.

We saw this one later than we normally make it to the theater, so we were forewarned not to compare it to the original and to just take it as it is. So here are my take-aways: 1) Will Smith. Going into this movie, the entire world was concerned about Smith’s Genie. No one will ever be able to replace Williams; that’s just a given. But I feel like Smith put his own spin on the character. I didn’t mind that he was blue. What I kinda minded was whenever he was in his legless form they beefed him up a bit. To their credit, it worked for the character because he’s kind of amorphous. For the most part his antics kinda took me out of the movie. I suspect this is mostly because I wasn’t having the best time in the theater because animated Genie did the same thing, but as a child his references went over my head.  I just thought he was being funny.

2) The humor. I’m sorry to say the majority of the comedy in this film is more awkward than actually funny. Aladdin nervously bumbling his way through his initial meeting with the entire royal court was both too long and awkward. He said the word “jams” repeatedly like a broken record. Who thought that was funny? Prince Ali should have been over-confident, which is what turns Jasmine off about him. Dalia had a dry humor about her that I didn’t find as charming as the film wanted me to. Will Smith was being Will Smith without really breaking character, but even that wasn’t super strong.

3) The musical. I didn’t feel as though the songs were as organic as the animated version. It worked for Beauty and the Beast, so I don’t know if it’s because the filmmakers were trying to change up the style, or because the songs don’t fit in the narrative anymore. I almost  feel they should have gone the Cinderella-route and barred all songs with the exception of Genie’s. For example: twice Aladdin does a reprisal of “One Jump.” He states “Riffraff. Streetrat,” and then melodically continues through the single verse. It just doesn’t flow. Jasmine’s “Speechless” felt like something I would have done at age 10, seeing a movie, going home to listen to my own music, and pretending I was in said movie. Also, throughout the movie everyone tells Jasmine that she should be quiet and just dismisses the notion that she WANTS to rule her kingdom, but it doesn’t really merit this big production of a song. They really should have fleshed it out more to create more of an impact.

4) Miscellaneous.
4.1)The absolute best part of the movie happens when Aladdin and Genie are talking in the tent in the desert. Carpet is in the background making a sand castle; the very icon that is Disney. When he tossed the sand over it like the logo before every film, I lost it!
4.2) The whole thing almost feels constricted by the ’95 version. Did you have to recycle the dialogue? Just make it it’s own thing.
4.3) A lot of the CGI was noticeable. Genie’s CGI wasn’t bad. Carpet and Abu weren’t bad either. Inside the cave of wonders, though, not great.
4.4) Many of the locations looked like sets. Particularly the bazaar and the ice chasm Jafar banishes Aladdin and Abu to.
4.5) And speaking of that ice chasm, Aladdin would have been shredded had he actually used freerunning to climb down to Abu, and then their plummet when the ice broke.
4.6) There are two instances of sped-up dancing. The first time I gave the benefit of the doubt that it’s because they panned out for the end of “Friend Like Me,” and it was CGI anyway. But then they did it again at the end, and it just doesn’t work. Guy Ritchie is probably best known for his use of speed-ups and slow-downs, but it wasn’t necessary here at all.

I’m complaining a lot. I do intend to see it again, though I don’t think I’ll pay for it a second time. I’ll just wait until the DVD release in a few months.

This entry was posted in action/adventure, fantasy, G, PG and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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