Aladdin [2019] ★★★

I was 5 years old when my mom took me to see the animated version of “Aladdin” back in 1992. To this day, she still tells the story of how I sat through the whole movie mesmerized by pretty much everything. As the years went by, the movie gained a “classic” status (there was even a direct-to-video sequel entitled “The Return of Jafar” but it didn’t get much attention, and for good reasons), so naturally, it was on Disney’s top priority list when it was announced that they were turning their animated films into live-action movies. People were skeptical, and again, for good reasons. How do you turn a beloved animated film starring the late Robin Williams (in one of his finest performances) into a live-action version starring…Will Smith? Well, now that I’ve seen it, I can tell you that director Guy Ritchie has managed to pull off the impossible by bringing this Arabian night tale to life with taste, heart, and a lavish production. As soon as the movie opened, I heaved a sigh of relief. This is a hugely entertaining film, the kind Aladdin (and his many fans) deserve. It’s not flawless, and I wish they didn’t change a key scene that used to scare the hell out of me as a kid (I can understand why they did that though), but it gets the job done by delivering spectacular visual effects and unforgettable musical numbers to accompany the story (even the new songs are catchy). All the actors deliver the goods, from Mena Massoud as Aladdin to Naomi Scott as Jasmine. But credits go to Will Smith for his sensational performance as the Genie. I know people were critical of this decision as soon as it was announced, but he truly knocked it out of the park. In short: he’s a perfect choice. So yes, this is “Aladdin” for a new generation that never tries to obliterate the original (thank goodness for that). But as a long-time Disney fan, it felt great to see all these characters back in a movie that audiences of all ages can enjoy.

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