Aladdin (2019)

Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer: John August, Guy Ritchie
Remake of: Aladdin
Cast: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Jordan A. Nash, Taliyah Blair, Aubrey Lin, Amir Boutrous, Numan Acar, Alan Tudyk
Seen on: 24.6.2019

Content Note: orientalism, brownfacing

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is poor and often has to steal to survive. When he meets a handmaiden of the Princess at the market, he takes a liking to her, not knowing the handmaiden is actually Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) herself. When he visits her in the palace, he is caught and the king’s advisor Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) realizes that Aladdin is just the man he needs to retrieve a magic lamp from an enchanted cave. Things don’t work out the way either man thought, and it’s Aladdin who ends up with the Genie (Will Smith) who resides in the lamp and promises Aladdin that he can win Jasmine – with his help.

Aladdin was generally unnecessary as a remake. The old one would have continued to be enough. But since they did it, at least it is entertaining – if you can look past the fact that it’s still pure orientalism.

The film poster showing Alddin (Mena Massoud) holding a magic lamp in his hands, a monkey on his shoulder. Behind him are Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and the Genie (Will Smith), as well as a small Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). Below him is a flying capret and treasure.

Aladdin gets a lot of things pretty right, above all Mena Massoud. He is an absolutely perfect choice for the role of Aladdin (a charcter that was probably the first crush of many people around my age, so tough shoes to fill). I also really enjoyed Will Smith as the Genie – especially since he doesn’t just try to copy Robin Williams’ iconic performance in the cartoon version, but makes it his own thing. And Jafar got an all-around upgrade with Kenzari, which was also very nice. The casting was generally spot-on.

I appreciated that they try very hard to give Jasmine a little more to do than in the original and even arrive at a feminist perspective with her, although she has to prove herself a little too much in the end. I also liked her new song, even though it isn’t quite as good as the original music.

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) as Prince Ali talking to the Genie (Will Smith).

That they managed to find Brown people to play Jasmine (albeit a very, very light-skinned one for her), Jafar and Aladdin is a very good thing, but irritatingly enough there were still white people in brownface in the crowd scenes which is all kinds of fucked up.

Overall, the film is a good, entertaining romp. I had fun while it lasted, and I hope that we will get to see Scott, Massoud and Kenzari a lot more. But if I want to revisit Aladdin’s story, I’ll probably opt for the animated version still.

Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and Aladdin (Mena Massoud) at the market.

Summarizing: entertaining.

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