Aladdin

 

            This is Disney at its best.  “Aladdin” is engaging, winsome, charming, humorous, and fun for the whole family.

            Will Smith is superb as the genie.  He even lends his singing voice, but it's his complex rendering of the genie character that really shines.  Yes, there's some CGI used, with constructing the genie's blue body, and the magic carpet ride, but it's so seamless that we readily accept the fanciful along with the gritty reality.

            And Disney will always provide us with a very real and menacing villain.  In this case, it's Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), who wants to take over the Kingdom from the aging Sultan (Navid Negahban), who doesn't suspect the treachery of his most trusted adviser.  Jafar is after the magic lamp that's protected by a massive cave with a powerful spell over it, so he enlists the street urchin, Aladdin (Mena Massoud) to steal it for him.  As we all know, Aladdin winds up with the lamp, but that doesn't necessarily solve all his problems.

            It seems he's hopelessly in love with the Sultan's daughter, the Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). She's supposed to pick from a procession of princes who come as suitors, but she's unimpressed with any of them.  Besides, she thinks she's perfectly capable of taking over the kingdom from her father, but of course he tells her that's never been done before. 

            The chase scenes at the beginning, with the veteran thief Aladdin barely getting away from the gendarmes, are fun to watch, as are the magic carpet rides.  Naomi Scott has a beautiful voice, and she uses it to good effect in her solos, and also in her duet with Mena Massoud.  Of course we are rooting for the star-crossed couple to find a way to be together, but we're also rooting for the genie to finally earn his freedom.  And it's satisfying to finally see the villain thwarted in such an ironic, poetic way.

            And, like a Bollywood film, we have an all-cast dance scene at the end, with lots of color and vigor and upbeat professionalism.  It's a feast for the eyes and ears as well as the sensibilities.  Highly recommended for all ages.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association