You’re only in trouble if you get caught. - Aladdin
It's hard to believe that the animated version of Aladdin with Robin Williams was released 27 years ago, because the film continues to play in the public’s lives through streaming, cable and memes. Then to think that anyone could live up to the masterful performance of the legendary comedian seems to be an insurmountable task.
When Disney announced that the director of Sherlock Holmes and The Man from UNCLE, Guy Ritchie would be taking on this project with Will Smith (Hitch) as the blue man, skepticism reigned in people’s hearts. Would the live-action edition live up to the standard of the original or would it implode under pressure and merely blow away like the sand in the desert? Despite the hesitation, Disney decided to give the lamp a rub and see if any magic comes out for audiences.
It is legendary tale of the street urchin surviving on the streets of Agrabah, relying on his wits and charm to keep himself and his trusted monkey, Aboo, alive. Aladdin (Mena Massoud) manages to stay ahead of the authorities until one day he comes to the aid of a young lady who is trying to feed some of the homeless children of the city. Merely trying to assist a damsel in distress, the young ‘street rat’ did not realise that he was being pulled into the political world of the Sultan (Navid Negahban) by assisting the disguised Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) in the streets of the city.
As Aladdin attempts to get in contact with this young lady as she lives under a type of house arrest in the castle, he manages to get in the crosshairs of the Grand Vizier, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). The closest advisor to the Sultan has designs to have the young ‘diamond in the rough’ to assist him with retrieving an elusive treasure, a magical lamp that sits in the cave of wonders. When things do not go to plan, the street boy finds himself as the master of the most powerful force in the universe, Genie of the lamp (Will Smith). When asked about being granted three wishes, Aladdin must decide how this opportunity can change his life.
To put the minds of fans of the original at ease, it is worth addressing some of the most significant issues that come from this film. Will Smith is a massive star, but to fill the Genie’s shoes after being vacated by Robin Williams is no easy feat. To Smith’s credit and to Guy Ritchie’s direction, they make this character their own, by paying homage to William’s masterwork with nuances that give it a fresh spin as he exits the lamp. The CGI is quite cartoonish and does not set any new standards, but it merely complements the story and does not diminish the performance.
Compared to the other live-action adaptations, Aladdin rises to the top of the heap. Blowing away Dumbo and exceeding the performances of Beauty and the Beast (Sorry, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens), they managed to get actual musicians and dancers to fill the roles in this film. The glaring weakness of this retelling was the villain, Marwan Kenzari is smarmy, but fails to represent pure evil or have the dominating presence that was exhibited in the animated version.
This is a nuanced version of the original that stays faithful to the heart of this beloved desert tale. Each character gets a slight makeover and they manage to humanise Genie, but it will still make the devoted fans happy, too. An excellent option for every member of the family with action, dancing, comedy, and a love story for the ages, Ritchie and Smith should take a bow and celebrate this magical adventure.
REEL DIALOGUE: Can anyone be the Sultan or King?
A portion of the story of Aladdin deals with Princess Jasmine challenging her birthright to be Sultan. Initially, she was unable to be heir to the throne, but things do change throughout the story. A strange concept in modern society, but still one to consider. The reality is that we all want to rule our own lives and don't like the idea of kings or sultans. Is there a king worth following today?
The Bible is loaded with various kings from Saul to David to Solomon, but none of these kings held the title of King of Kings. This was a label that was only given to the Messiah and is one of the many names of Jesus. Similar to Jasmine, he knew his birthright and the part he was to play as the centrepiece of history.
That is quite a bit to ponder, but an even deeper notion to consider from a letter written to the Romans by the Apostle Paul is that followers of Christ are co-heirs with Christ.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17
These revelations are interesting things to consider. The first is the notion of Jesus being Lord of your life. If you understand that he truly is the one true King, were you aware that that makes you a co-heir to the Kingdom? It is a daunting thing to take in that he shares the keys of the Kingdom with you, but understand that this privilege is something that goes well beyond a wish on a magic lamp.
Where to look for more details: Matthew 25:34; Galatians 3:29; Colossians 1:12; 3:24
Written by Russell Matthews based on a five-star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingrevs #reeldialogue #Aladdin
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Russ Matthews works for City Bible Forum as the Engaging Manager. He enjoys developing large public forums throughout the city to engage workers with the bigger questions of life. He oversees The Edge and Reel Dialogue.