PG, for highly stressful situations galore. It might be glorifying thievery. Also, there's talk of genocide that wasn't in the original movie. In terms of innuendo, it's pretty minor. Really, most kids would be bothered by scary imagery and that's about it. I kind of stand behind the PG rating of this movie.
DIRECTOR: Guy Richie
I'm actually out of movies. When we were sitting around and had an impromptu movie night, I jumped at the chance. If you've read the other things I've written about the Disney remakes, like Dumbo, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast, you'll know that I'm kind of over them. I really want to avoid rewriting the same argument again, so please check those out when you have the chance. Aladdin deals with a lot of the same issues, so just know that the rules still apply. But I do want to write about this new version of Aladdin from a perspective of what's going on with this specific version of the movie.
I'm not going to lie, I didn't hate it. It's oddly less scary than the animated version. A lot of that comes from my nostalgia and my childhood fears. But there's something more approachable about the whole thing, Maybe because Jafar seems like a real dude as opposed to one of the more insidious Disney villains. I'm thinking of the end of the animated version, when everything is tinged red and there's a giant snake version of Jafar. Since I'm already talking about this scene, I do really want to get something off my chest. In an attempt to add some surprises, Richie decides to swerve left instead of right with some of the major moments in the story. He aims for the same results, but the how-they-get-there is just a little bit different. As always, I'm talking about spoilers, but does the change in this movie really work? the animated film has Jafar wishing to be "an all-powerful genie." Good. No wiggle room. Jafar is nailed. Richie does this fun thing where Jafar hates being in second place throughout the film. It's a motif that runs throughout and defines Jafar's character. Cool. I dig it. But the wish that Jafar actually makes is one that says "I want to be the most powerful creature in the universe." Now that's a bit of a wonky way to look at the wish, making him a genie. The genie, arguable, has the least amount of power in the universe because he lacks free will. It seems like Genie is intentionally misinterpreting the wish to make the movie work. The same thing kind of holds true with Aladdin not rubbing the lamp for his first wish. He had no idea that's how it was supposed to work. Also, I feel like the Genie should be an expert at that loophole.
Which all leads me to my question, "What are the rules for the Genie?" This is a very me question. I hate me for being this guy because I'm aware of how it comes across. But I want to really get down and dirty for this. When the Genie is being all Genie-like, telling jokes and being all around charming, he's whisking Aladdin and Abu all over the place. There's some regular teleporting happening within the confines of his power. He clearly has some free will in these moments. It's all part of the dog-and-pony show that the Genie has going on. However, Aladdin has to use his second wish underwater and even the Genie acknowledges that they are going into some gray area. But why is this such a big idea. Why doesn't the Genie just lift him a few feet? Is it intention? Is it because Aladdin wants to be saved? If teleporting is some how cool, why can't the Genie just move him a couple feet up so he's on top of Carpet? Okay, I'm going to go even further. Let's say it does come down to Aladdin's intentions. Aladdin never actually says the words "I want to be saved." What if, you know, the Genie temporarily teleports Aladdin to Carpet and tells him "Do you wish for me to save you? I'll have to put you back if you say 'no'." That seems way more on character and in story than simply pretending like Aladdin made a wish. It's something that irked me with the animated version. It's not doing a good job of changing my mind now.
I feel bad for Will Smith. I shouldn't. He's a multi-millionaire and he's culturally permeated everything. He's doing just fine. But I didn't think it would be such an uphill struggle jumping in for Robin Williams. It's not like other movies, shy of The Lion King, have gotten their original casts back for the remake. Is there something so fundamentally tied to Robin Williams with this character that it becomes something very different when tied to a different actor? The Broadway show did something else with a different actor and I think that worked swimmingly. My wife didn't care for Will Smith in this one. I agree that Robin Williams added something really special to that role that made the character his. But I enjoyed, to a certain extent, Will Smith's different portrayal of the Genie. There's something really schizophrenic about Robin Williams's version of the character that is missing from Smith's version. Smith's version is funny, but I think he's more concerned about being cool. It actually feels like a buddy comedy, Aladdin and the Genie in this one. There's a great line in this version of the movie that is pretty telling about how the character has somewhat evolved from the original incarnation. He says something about "In the ten thousand years I've been a genie, I've never been a friend to my master" or something along those lines. It is something that we take for granted in the animated version and I get the idea that Will Smith adds something vulnerable to the character. Williams's version had moments that came across as quite sympathetic, but I had an easier time empathizing with Smith's version. Perhaps it is because the Genie, for a lot of the live action version, is presented as human instead of giant and blue. The giant and blue moments were actually way more off-putting.
But the smartest thing that the movie does is connect the narrator of the tale to the events. In the animated version, which I'll link here, Robin Williams voices the narrator as well as the Genie. There's fan theories that the narrator is the Genie, but that really doesn't really explain a lot of what is going on throughout the film. While the live action version perhaps tips its hat a little to early on, considering that Will Smith is such a famous actor, I do like the idea that the Genie ends up living his ideal life. He seems...normal. The animated version ends with a supernatural creature who is almost godlike exploring the world and ending up at Disneyworld. However, there's something far more satisfying in seeing this guy who just wanted to have a family...have a family. He seems like a good dad who really appreciates the simple things in life and that's what makes the Genie's throughline so interesting to watch. I also really appreciated that we got a strong love interest in the story as well. These two, despite their limited time together, actually have really great chemistry.
Points also to the live action version for making Jasmine a better character. I commented in the animated version that Jasmine's intellect is all over the place. That's true here too, but the live action version is at least a little bit more plausible. It's still absurd to think that the future ruler of Agrabah has no idea what money is or why those kids just don't take those loaves of bread, but the rest of the movie actually makes her self-actualized. Part of what does it is the songs. Jasmine is the heroine of her own story. Aladdin is just this guy who complicates her life. But she has a fully understood story. She actually looks at Ali with scorn not because he completely sucks, but because she knows that she might sacrifice becoming a ruler for someone who is kind of a blowhard. I mean, the ending of the story is still very convenient for Jasmine, getting to be sultan and all. But it at least lines up with her character a bit better.
The second I forgave the fact that this was a sequel, I enjoyed it a lot. It doesn't really feel like Guy Richie, with the exception of one or two shots (oddly enough, Aladdin falling into the water in slo-mo), but that doesn't mean that it isn't fun. Will Smith will never be Robin Williams. No one really can be. But I like that Will Smith was different enough to avoid trying Robin Williams's performance. Yeah, it's a different character, but that's okay. The cast is fantastic. Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott fill their roles perfectly. It actually works better than I thought. I was never really pulled out of the story for their character choices. It overall works, and is probably one of the better Disney remakes.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.