The way I would describe my thoughts on this movie goes back to enjoying soda as a child. Soda was a staple at feasts and family get-togethers. Depending on what was on sale at the time at our local commissary, my family and I would vacillate between either Coca Cola or Pepsi. Sure, there were a few stragglers every once in awhile: RC cola, Shasta, and Big K; but it was few and far in between. Looking back, our affinity to either Coca Cola or Pepsi was honestly 50/50. We never had arguments or debates on whether one was better than the other; we were just blessed with what we thought were the best in branded cola. I promise you, I’ll get to the bottom of this soon.
Aladdin (1992) was one of the first movies I can recall seeing in the theater as a child. Vague memories come to mind: walking in and out of the theater under a cool, dark, New Jersey sky; passing through glass double doors; seeing shades of cool purple and blue from the one sheet featuring a gold lamp snaking out smoke into the faraway land sky. It was an exciting film full of shrouded mysteries and bursting with such glorious animated fervor. Down the line, it became a favorite and Disney staple throughout the rest of my childhood. Even it’s sequels (more so The King of Thieves) were entertaining enough to maintain my fondness for the characters and world. Fast-forward to the beginning of 2019, sitting in another darkened theater awaiting to see this new iteration of a Disney classic, my memory brought me back to being a kid.
I had no idea what to expect, to be honest. I figured I’d cringe at a blue and wonky-CGI padded Will Smith anytime he attempted to emulate the spirit of Robin William’s Genie. I imagined I’d lose line of sight as a result of my own eyeballs rolling into the back of my head from the sight and sound of forced, cheesy, on-the-nose humor and dialogue. I wondered if I would be distracted by a frenetic and too-cool-for-school stamp from director Guy Ritchie, most notably keen on adding slow-motion to almost every action sequence. Needless to say, I was steeped in concern and skepticism.
Then, I turned to my fiancee who expressed to me with a smile filled with excitement and enthusiasm to see the film. If it weren’t for her, I probably would have passed. Because she wanted to see it, and in consideration it was her birthday, it was an opportunity to go in with some sense of anticipation. As the theater darkened, a sense of familiarity overcame me as the movie started.
Which brings me back to soda. I can’t recall the first time I tried off-brand cola, but I somehow remember an initial sense of disappointment and hesitation with the sight of something looking so like the real thing, but knowing that it was not the real thing at all. Just imagine going your whole life drinking from the most glorious tap of your favorite soda or beverage of choice, and then only being offered the off-brand with nothing else available to quench your thirst. You’re more than likely going to pick out the differences immediately. You may either discontinue it all in a short moment, or you may just keep sipping for a little while more until you actually don’t mind the flavor. That’s Aladdin (2019) in a nutshell for me.
Will Smith’s Genie was quite the surprise and one of the best parts of the film. His spin on the character made legendary by the late Williams has enough gusto and grandeur to stand on its own. There was enough charm and wit to go around, and everyone seemed to be having a good ole time. If you’ve seen the original animated feature, you’re going to know what to expect in terms of narrative beats, but with that expectation there was a freshness to it. Fun became infectious, and action became thrilling. Aladdin (2019) is a fun ride through familiarity. Give it a try. You might be surprised.