Monday, June 3, 2019


While my deeper investment with Beauty and the Beast (both the 1991 film and the story in general) probably increased my criticism of that live-action remake, I don't have the same connection with the 1992 film. In fact, I really didn't have any memories of watching it growing up--so I really didn't see it until college. That makes watching a live-action remake easier, I'm sure.

As far as the live-action remakes of the princess films go, Aladdin seemed to settle on the ground that Beauty and the Beast was unable to. Beauty and the Beast was like they were just recreating scenes--and not as well--and with additional scenes that changed the pacing or theme too much to go along with the rest of it. (Cinderella, by the way, I thought was wonderful--there they did a subtle tweaking that adjusted the plot/theme just slightly to modernize it.) Aladdin kept the familiar things like the songs or certain moments but did everything different--and to a different theme.

We know that it's all going to be different not from the Genie story framing but from meeting Jasmine right away in the marketplace. We see her first from Aladdin's perspective, which is fitting because the film is named for him, after all. So we see the events of the story unfold differently than they do in the animated version.

And they did a great job at modernizing the theme here, too. Less subtle than with Cinderella, here it was a complete reworking. One of the things I've criticized about the animated film is its reliance on the same old marriage plot, despite being a modern film. So here they just reworked that and made the point being rulership of the kingdom. Jasmine has to marry because she can't be sultan. Her words in the film focus not on wanting to marry for love but on her love for her kingdom. And the final "success" is her father making her sultan. As sultan, she can choose to marry who she loves (Aladdin), but that becomes secondary. It is more important for Jasmine to have her place than for her to marry Aladdin.

They also more greatly stressed Aladdin's character here. Yet they also managed to do this without overdoing it. They didn't make him this greater-than-life, perfect man. He's just a guy. He does some nice things and he does some selfish things and he does some awkward things. He's just a guy, but a good guy. And he went along this journey with his wishes, where he had the opportunity to fall in with temptation but in the end he does honor her values and relationships by choosing to free Genie.

Genie. I don't like Will Smith's vocals for the opening "Arabian Nights," but his style fit well for Genie's songs. For these songs, they also found a way to make them feel live-action with CG and not just like animated sequences in a live-action film (looking at you, "Be Our Guest," in the aforementioned other film). So it all worked. Speaking of music, I didn't care for Jasmine's new songs. One, because there were all of those shifts to keep the story from Aladdin's perspectives--yet the songs stressed Jasmine's perspective. Two, because they felt too staged even for a Disney film. In fact, this would be a good time to mention that overall this film felt much like watching a better-than-usual, bigger budget, made-for-TV movie. It had that cloying quality to it. Not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.

The use of dance was great, though. They went for almost a 1950's or 1960's era musical style, with all of the grand choreography. If you're going to make a musical, right? (And maybe this style was also why those songs where Jasmine was just walking towards the camera and singing felt out of place with the rest of it all.)

So it was an entertaining movie to watch. Enjoyable, family film. I wouldn't call it anything more than that--but that's okay.

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