A lot of people my age count the Disney version of Aladdin as their favorite film. So when it was announced that a live-action adaptation would be produced, they had high expectations. As high expectations go, they are rarely met so people had things to say when the trailer came out, especially after seeing Will Smith as a blue genie. But after seeing the film a week before its Philippine premiere, I have to say: I love both the animated feature and the adaptation.
The Disney version of Aladdin follows the titular street rat as he makes ends meet while stealing in the fictional land of Agrabah. When he is tasked by Jafar, the city’s Royal Vizier, to procure a lamp within the Cave of Wonders, he unleashes a Genie that can grant him three wishes. The Disney animated feature is the highest-grossing film of 1992 and went on to win two Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “A Whole New World.”
The live-action adaptation Aladdin had a big magic lamp to fill but Guy Ritchie’s direction was able to live up to the Disney magic. Admittedly, Smith carried the film with his swagger and bravado. He is natural as the Genie and many of the film’s best moments involve him. A surprise here is Nasim Pedrad as Princess Jasmine’s handmaiden. The role is a welcome addition because of Pedrad’s comedic timing.
Of course, the actors playing Aladdin and Jasmine did not disappoint. Mena Massoud as Aladdin was handsome and debonair, while Naomi Scott was vulnerable and headstrong as Jasmine. It was a great decision for Disney to set up a diverse cast, adding a touch of accuracy to the scenes. They are joined by Marwan Kenzari as Jafar, Navid Negahban as the Sultan, and Billy Magnussen and Numan Acar in new roles.
The spirit of authenticity also extends to the set. Emmy Award-winning set designer Gemma Jackson created a beautiful world with exquisite costumes inspired by the different elements and architectures of the Middle East and South Asia. The result is a vibrant film which comes off as a Bollywood production.
The biggest question for people about to enter the cinema to watch Aladdin will be the soundtrack. The live-action adaptation maintains the animated feature’s setlist, with eight-time Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken returning to provide the musical tunes, including pop-friendly recordings of “A Whole New World,” “Friend Like Me,” and two new songs.
It’s important to come in to watch the live-action Aladdin with zero expectations. While it is based on the animated feature, this is a film that should be measured on its own, not in comparison to the source material. The 1992 version introduced us to the magic of Agrabah. This one brought it to real life.
This story is in partnership with The Walt Disney Company. Aladdin opens in Philippine cinemas on May 22, 2019. For more information, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Follow the hashtag #AladdinPH to join the conversations online.