Elisia and I had the opportunity to see Aladdin on opening weekend. I had been looking forward to it since Disney announced that it was coming out. Being children of the 90’s, all of those classics are near and dear to our hearts. We grew up on them, so naturally we are all over the live action remakes. There have been a LOT of critics for this particular movie. Naturally there was a lot of push back regarding Will Smith as the Genie. Some love the changes that were made, some long for an exact replica of the original. Ultimately Disney was in a lose-lose situation. There are always going to be haters. We are here to share our opinion and convince you of why you should go see it. (As always, mild spoilers to follow.)
I was unable to go with Elisia and Heidi opening night, and I also really wanted to see it, especially before any spoilers came out. Dan and I were going to go as a date night, but decided to bring our 3 girls with us (Audrey age 11 1/2, Addie age 9 and Lexie age 6). They loved it! We were concerned it was going to be quite scary, but in my opinion it’s significantly less intense than the original… so if your kid was OK in the animated version, they will be OK in this one.
Visually, this movie was absolutely stunning. Part of the filming was done in Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan. I appreciated that there was no cheesy CGI sand dunes. For the set of Agrabah they built an actual city. The set design team truly did a masterful job. Every detail seemed to be so strategically thought out and it translated to a magnificent, immersive experience for the viewers.
We live in Vancouver, more specifically Surrey, which is rich with Middle Eastern culture. We are very familiar with Bollywood; one of my favourite all time movies is Bride and Prejudice (a Bollywood remake of the classic Pride and Prejudice). Do yourself a favour and try to find it. All this to say, the cultural authenticity in Aladdin is spot on. Lots of vibrant colours, the music (Alan Menken once again), the dancing, it was all spectacular.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard is about Will Smith being cast as the Genie. Robin Williams was so iconic I think people had a hard time envisioning anyone else in the role. I think for that very reason they had to find someone that would bring something completely new to the table. And let me tell you, Will Smith had our theatre laughing from start to finish. He didn’t try and touch Robin Williams’ version of Genie but created a persona of his own. I thought he was absolutely brilliant in this movie and he really made it for me. Just like any live action remake, you have to go in with an open mind. This is not the cartoon. This is something new and exciting and really, it stands alone. Give him a chance, maybe he will prove you wrong! If you’ve seen the Broadway Musical version of Aladdin, or had the pleasure of watching the stage show in Disneyland, Will Smith’s take on Genie wasn’t too far off from what they did there… and yet I felt with the CGI they were able to really make it spectacular! He was certainly my favourite part of the movie. You definitely need to set aside Robin Williams, and embrace that no one will ever replace him. But make a little space in your heart for Will Smith. Even he was nervous about his role in the film. It took starting in on the songs for him to make the Genie his own. Alan Menken described it as building a house that someone else is going to live in. He quickly realized that once the more hip-hop feel was layered on to the music, Smith just needed to be allowed to do his thing.
Cast & Storyline
As far as the story goes, I feel they did an excellent job keeping the integrity of the original. The casting was spot on for me, except for maybe Jafar. He was okay but not really my favourite. Which is kind of silly because is he ANYONE’S favourite? His performance was certainly the most flat to me! Underwhelming for sure.
I like when they cast relatively unknown actors. For me it just creates a clean slate. There were a couple of new additions that I really liked. The first was Princess Jasmine’s handmaiden and best friend Dalia. This character allowed us an inside peek into Jasmine’s thoughts and feelings. Immediately I was endeared to this character and I felt it really added an interesting dynamic. I couldn’t get over how much the actress that plays Jasmine looked and had mannerisms exactly like a young Sarah Michelle Gellar. It took me out of the movie a bit, but what can you really do about that? She really was a lovely cast. Whaaaat? That’s so funny, I didn’t see that at all!
Another great add was Hakim, captain of the Royal Guard. I won’t spoil anything for you but he plays an important role as well. I like that they give some back story of who he is and how he came to be in that position.
They did a really good job with the relationship between the Genie and Aladdin. There were several scenes that were laugh-out-loud funny… and I even read that the “jam” scene was completely ad-libbed. Oh my goodness, the jam! You will totally get what we are talking about when you see it. SO FUNNY.
I was disappointed with the ending. I didn’t like some of the creative liberties they took, and found it anticlimactic. I wish they had stuck closer to the original. If you are expecting a giant snake and hourglass just get that out of your head right now. Whereas I really enjoyed the ending. I didn’t feel that it was anticlimactic at all, and I loved how they used music to really build to that climax. While the ending was a little different, they stayed true to who the characters were.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack nonstop since seeing the movie. Obviously this is a remake, so the music is definitely different. But Alan Menken, the OG score composer, was at the wheel, so it still feels authentic to the original. He went with the actor’s strengths, so expect a bit of a hip hop feel to the Genie’s musical numbers. Alan Menken is the one person that I would want to sit down and have a conversation with more than any other person alive today. He just inspires me. The new songs were anthems and the perfect additions to the originals IMO. They tweaked and played with them just slightly. If you think that might bother you, I would suggest downloading the soundtrack before you go. Also, this movie felt more like a traditional musical. Some songs were split up, so in total it was a three minute song, but you’ve got half the movie between it. I love musicals, so it didn’t bother me, but I know that some people feel like it’s disjointed.
>>WARNING: If you don’t like spoilers, hold off on reading the rest of this review until you see movie!<<
Disney Easter Eggs
A Disney Easter Egg is a little hidden reference or nod to other Disney movies. If you want to go down a fun rabbit hole, Google it. We caught eleven, but the fun thing is when you go back and re-watch you can usually spot a few more.
- In the opening scene we see a massive ship that is undeniably Prince Eric’s ship from The Little Mermaid. There have been talks of a live action LM, so perhaps Disney is dangling it in front of us.
- At one point Jasmine picks up a guitar in Aladdin’s hide away. Maybe this is a stretch, but to me it looks like the same guitar Kristoff played in Frozen.
- Speaking of Frozen, one of Princess Jasmine’s suitors, Prince Anders, is from Skanland. His ship, clothes, and character are certainly a nod to Arendelle.
- In one of the scenes Abu is building a sandcastle. He then takes a handful of sand and casts it over the castle. Exactly like Disney’s movie icon. I have to give credit to our friend Norrie for catching that one!
- Aladdin is holding a map and the Genie decides to have a little fun with it. All of a sudden Fantasyland and other lands, as well as the Disneyland castle, appear! That was a fun reference.
- In the scene wear Aladdin ends up underwater and the Genie needs him to make a second wish to save his life a contract appears. It looks exactly like the contract Ursula had King Triton sign. Another thing that points to The Little Mermaid. Coincidence? I think not.
- Genie shows off and turns himself into Hercules. Maybe a future movie idea or just a fun little bonus.
- My husband thinks at one point the handmaiden’s outfit was a nod to Minnie Mouse… when she answers the door to greet the Genie she’s wearing a red dress with white polka dots.
- When Aladdin and Genie are getting to know each other in the desert, you can see the Carpet playing in the sand in the background. At one point the Carpet makes a sandcastle, which clearly looks exactly like Cinderella’s Castle!
- Near the beginning, when viewers are first introduced to the city of Agrabah, you can see a group of people releasing paper lanterns into the air… a clear nod to Disney’s Tangled.
- In one of the final scenes there is a huge snake statue. Jafar doesn’t turn into a snake in the live action, so I think this was a nod to that.
I always like to throw in a little DisneyBound when possible. This outfit was actually from a post we did in October but I wanted to share it with you guys anyway. When attempting to DisneyBound there really are no rules. It’s your spin on a Disney character. It’s great when you can pull something out of your closet. My favoutite place to look for pieces to throw together is Value Village. Up-cyling is always a good idea. I always go in with an open mind and see what’s there. When I saw this shirt I automatically thought of Princess Jasmine. And then I found the earrings (VV sells new earrings) and the whole outfit just came together. Together they cost less than $10 and I love both pieces for regular life… bonus! If Elisia had the time, she was going to throw a red ribbon on her blue shirt (in the picture at the beginning of this post) and voila! Genie DisneyBound.
When my family went to Disneyland in September 2018 we did our own little Aladdin DisneyBound. We also had a friend with us so we wanted to do a group ‘bound. Lucky for us, we found Aladdin and Jasmine by accident to take pictures with!
My husband had to change up his colours a bit for his Aladdin, but the spirit is there. In fact, Aladdin was admiring his pants and kept commenting on them (as did many other passing strangers!). Our daughter is the Carpet (her little hair tassels just get me <3). If I had found a good monkey outfit you can bet she would have been Abu, but alas it was not to be (missed opportunity, I know). Our fabulously creative mother made the ears for myself and our friend to do Jasmine and the Genie, and it turned out soooo well. Honestly some of the most comfortable ears I wore the whole trip, not going to lie! It’s a shame we had to be in the shadows of the castle though as it was either getting too hot… or starting to sprinkle, I can’t quite recall.
This was such a fun ‘bound to do in Disneyland, though I wish there were more areas we could have taken photos to match the feel!
I hope we have convinced you that Aladdin is worth seeing!
Thanks for reading and have a magical day!
Erica, Heidi, Elisia and Danielle