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Laramie Movie Scope: Aladdin (2019)

A remake recaptures some musical magic

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 11, 2019 – I decided to go see this one since I am a Will Smith fan, because I also liked the original, and because it was being shown 3D. Live action 3D movies are becoming increasingly rare to find in theaters.

It did not disappoint, and it also turned out to be a very popular movie, perhaps because the music is very good and it features a couple of actors who can really sing those memorable songs well. Most musicals (other than biopics about musicians such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Rocketman”) these days do not have memorable music. Aladdin does have good music because most of the songs were written at a time when Walt Disney Pictures had some exceptional musical talent.

The songwriting team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken did memorable music for “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Ashman died in 1991, but some of his songs made it into Aladdin. Alan Menken composed the score for both the original animated film and this live-action remake. A new song was written for this film, and several songs from the original film, written by Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, are heard in both the original movie and this remake.

Mena Massoud, who plays Aladdin in this remake, is also a good singer, despite not having a singing background prior to this film. Naomi Grace Scott, who plays Jasmine in this film, does have a background in singing, and displays a fine singing voice in this film as well. The most recognizable name in the movie, of course, is Will Smith, who started out as a rapper, but later became an actor, and one of Hollywood's biggest stars in films like “Independence Day” and the “Men in Black” trilogy of films. Smith, who plays the genie of the lamp, gives the magical jinn a very human quality.

Like other Disney films, such as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, this is basically a romantic musical with some action, drama and comedy. This live action version compares well to the original film, but there are two notable absences. Robin Williams, who died five years ago, voiced the Genie, and was a huge part of the original film. The distinctive voice of controversial actor and comedian Gilbert Gottfried, heard as Iago the Parrot in the original film, is missing from this remake. Iago is voiced instead by Alan Tudyk in the remake. Tudyk notably voiced the robot K-2SO in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

There is quite a lot of action in this film, with a lot of acrobatic stunt work and CGI action. Director Guy Ritchie (“RocknRolla” and the recent “Sherlock Holmes” movies) is adept at directing action and intrigue. This film is a bit of a throwback to films like many old swashbuckler movies about pirates and adventurers like Sinbad the Sailor. The story dates back to old Middle Eastern folk tales collected in “One Thousand and One Nights,” later adapted into famous early films titled “The Thief of Bagdad.”

With the successful live-action versions of such films as “Cinderella” (2015) “Beauty and the Beast” (2017) and “Aladdin,” Disney has found a way to breathe new life into its old collection of hit animated movies. There was a time when animated films had a lot of advantages over live action when it comes to depicting things like magic and mythical creatures. That advantage has largely disappeared because of computer-generated imagery. While animation still has its place, these new live action remakes have the advantage of actors on screen portraying characters with more nuanced emotions, who are easier to identify with. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2019 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]