As you might remember from my summer movie preview post, I had low expectations going into the live action remake of Disney’s Aladdin. And nonetheless, a lot was pulling me to get to this movie in the theaters: the nostalgia factor cannot be denied (this was an important movie of my childhood of course), the casting looked excellent, the color palate was bright and fun, and most importantly, Rajah would be there. I cannot stress this enough. I want a pet tiger.
So, yes, I went to see this movie, but no, I wasn’t expecting to like it at all. Especially since pretty much every Disney live action movie I’ve seen before this has been complete garbage (looking at you Beauty and the Beast). But, friends, I really liked this 2019 adaptation of Aladdin. Maybe I even loved it. So while in all fairness calling Aladdin the best Disney live action adaptation is a VERY LOW BAR, I mean it from the very bottom of my heart. This movie is the best.
But why? Let me break it down for you.
1 - The Animals
As mentioned in my preview post, I had a few concerns with the animals in the movie. For one, they were going to be CGI, which can go really bad. While in the preview images Rajah looked fine, Abu was looking a little horrifying. Surprisingly, however, in the context of the movie, Abu was very cute and had just as much personality as his cartoon predecessor.
As for Rajah, I was absolutely delighted that he had PLENTY of screen time. There were even cat jokes included in the script. It was like someone read my initial concerns and amped up the Rajah moments just for me. I was completely enamored with this big CGI kitty.
2 - Jasmine/Naomi Scott
Animal characters aside, of all of the human characters, Princess Jasmine was one of the biggest highlights. Disney has updated Jasmine’s story to give her more agency and a true concrete goal. Jasmine’s main drive is to become the next sultan in order to serve the people of Agrabah whom she loves. For this, the movie loves her back. Throughout the film, time is taken to show how and why Jasmine is the type of leader Agrabah needs. Unlike some of the weird changes in other Disney adaptations, this one felt natural and made the character of Jasmine feel more fully realized.
In addition, Jasmine has a new original song. Ever since I was a child, I wondered why Jasmine didn’t get her own Disney princess “I want” song, and finally Disney has remedied this. Admittedly, this new song sounds a little too contemporary and out of place when compared to the rest of the classic Disney movie soundtrack. But that incongruity is outweighed by the good; what Jasmine wants is to have a voice in her government. That’s pretty legit.
It also helps that Naomi Scott can actually sing. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate Naomi Scott, okay? She is the best singer in this movie, and she truly breathed new life into this iconic Disney character. 5 stars for Naomi Scott.
3 - Dalia
While we’re on the subject of Jasmine, thank GOD they gave her a friend in this version. In the original, poor Jasmine had no songs AND no friends. Okay, of course Jasmine has always had Rajah, but even so, a girl needs some lady friends. After watching Dalia in this version of the movie, I wonder how Jasmine ever went without her. Jasmine is great and all, but even she needs to be called out on her bullshit sometimes, and Dalia does this with kindness and humor.
4 - The Humor
You know this blog is all about spoilers, but there’s really no sense is spoiling funny parts because they’re never really funny if you have to explain them. Just believe me that this movie is actually funny. What I love is that not one single actor is doing all the work to make this movie funny. Mena Massoud as Aladdin has a great sense of humor and quirky facial expressions that convey his awkwardness as Prince Ali. Nasim Pedrad also has several laugh out loud moments. It’s just a funny movie with a lot of actors making an effort to contribute their comedic skills.
5 - Will Smith’s Genie
Of course Will Smith as the Genie is a big part of the comedy. The original cartoon with Robin Williams as the Genie relied very heavily on Robin Williams just doing his Robin Williams comedy. This was a major selling point of the original movie, and it’s hard to imagine the Genie as anyone but Robin Williams. Will Smith had some impossible shoes to fill, which is why he just didn’t even try to fill them. There’s no point in trying to out-Robin Williams Robin Williams, so instead Will Smith was just Will Smith. He was serving us an older, wiser, and more magical Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and it really worked. Will Smith brought heart, charm, and humor to this character in a way that was purely his own.
6 - The Dance Numbers
If you’re a person who’s into dancing, there is plenty of it in this movie. Often the dancing is very good. Often it’s part of the whole humor thing I was talking about earlier. It was always very entertaining. Be sure to stay all the way til the end to see the dancing in the credits.
7 - It Looks Good
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I can overlook a lot of flaws in a movie if it’s beautiful, and this movie was at some points straight up stunning. Of course this wasn’t a perfect movie, but on top of being a whole lot of fun to watch, it was also gorgeous. I award many points for this.
So there you have it. Here are just a few reasons why Aladdin is the best live action Disney remake ever (SO FAR). We’ll have to revisit this ranking very shortly when The Lion King hits theaters in July. Stay tuned because we’ll be podcasting about that movie in just a few weeks!