Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Fresh Prince of Agrabah

Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Alan Tudyk
Released: May 24, 2019
Viewed in theaters: May 29, 2019

My review of the original movie.

I'll say the same thing about this movie that I said about the live-action Beauty and the Beast and that I'll inevitably say about the upcoming The Lion King: it wasn't as good as its animated counterpart. That said, even though I had my doubts, I did enjoy the movie (for the most part) and it did bring a sense of nostalgia for me. Now if I had watched this movie without ever watching the animated movie or even knowing about it (and I would have to been born yesterday for that to happen, but just go with me!), I would have found this movie to be very weird and probably wondering what the heck was going on. But since I have seen the animated movie, I understand what they were going for, but there are just many aspects of Aladdin that doesn't quite translate nicely to a live-action remake. (:::coughcoughTheGeniecoughcough:::) While the movie pretty much keeps to the same beats as the original, there were a few changes, so beware that there might be spoilers if you haven't seen this yet.

We'll first start with the Genie. Let's just get him out of the way, shall we? Will Smith had some big shoes to fill but I think it's a bit unfair to compare him to Robin Williams who made the Genie such an iconic character. There's no way anyone could have ever lived up to his performance. The character is still a wise-cracking, jubilant, fun-loving all-powerful being, but Will Smith brings a different vibe to him. I didn't have a problem with his performance; what I had a problem with was the look of the genie. When he was the blue CGI genie, it just looked so weird. It's one thing to animate the Genie and do a bunch of crazy things that you're provided with Williams' voiceovers, but when you bring the Genie to real life, yikes! Not pretty! The Genie does disguise himself as human when he's around other humans so we get a break from the CGI monstrosity for a few scenes. That said, the Jafar evil genie is much worse; probably because he's only in abut five minutes of the movie and they wanted to make sure the Will Smith genie looked better, which, it does, but not by much.

They throw in a new plot twist by giving the Genie a love interest. Yeah, it's a little weird that this all powerful being falls in love with a mere mortal. (Although (uh, spoiler warning if you've ever seen the original!) he does become freed of his genie duties, so does that mean he no longer has his genie powers and is now just a human?) When we first meet the Genie, he's on a boat in his human disguise and talking to his children and I thought that we were going to see the origin story of how this man became a genie, but then the movie starts and I start getting into it because they're singing the songs I know and, honestly, I just forgot about that scene. It isn't until the end of the movie when they return to that scene of him on the boat with his kids and wife that I realized that this scene takes place after all the events of the movie and he has married the woman he fell in love with and these are their children.

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) and Jasmine (Naomi Scott) get to wear more clothes in this version as Aladdin wears a shirt and Jasmine never bares her mid-drift. She also gets to wear more than one outfit (which seems more realistic!) and has some exquisite ensembles and even wears a beautiful dress in her signature turquoise shade during the "A Whole New World" scene. I love that they even styled her hair the same way as animated Jasmine in that scene (tied back with three different hair ties). While she has some gorgeous jewelry, I was a little disappointed she never wears those huge gold earrings her animated version sports.

Jasmine has much more of a bigger role than she did in the animated movie. We learn more about her backstory like why she isn't allowed to to leave the palace (because her mother was killed and her father fears for his daughter's safety). Her father (who comes off much more competent than his bumbling animated counterpart) and Jafar (Manwan Kenzari) want Jasmine to marry a prince because they need somebody to become Sultan (the idea for Jarfar to marry Jasmine so he can become Sultan doesn't come into fruition until the end of the movie), but Jasmine has other ideas and she wants to be Sultan. She doesn't understand why she has to marry an outsider who will lead a country that nobody knows better than she does and that she's been prepared for this her whole life.

When Aladdin and Jasmine meet, he thinks she's the handmaiden to the Princess and she goes along with it. When Aladdin sneaks into the palace to return a bracelet Abu had nabbed from her, he comes face to face with both Jasmine and Dalia, the real handmaiden to the Princess (and a character that isn't in the animated version). Jasmine has to get Dalia's attention to make sure she knows that she needs to pretend that she's the Princess. While it's a comical scene, I have a hard time believing Aladdin would believe the girl he met in the marketplace is only a handmaiden because she's wearing this gorgeous silk colorful dress (I can't remember what color is is in this scene..she has a turquoise dress, a pink dress, an orange dress, a purple dress, you get the idea!) and Dalia only wears simple gowns in muted colors. Plus there's her jewelry....I mean, c'mon, Aladdin... But he doesn't find out she's the Princess until the Genie transfers him into Prince Ali.

Abu, Raja, Iago, and the magic carpet are all in this movie but none are as fun or as lively animated as their '92 counterparts. Obviously they're all CGI. There were some cute moments with Abu, but then other times you could tell he was a CGI creature (especially in the eyes) and it just looked really creepy. I feel like this movie won't age very well in the future. The CGI just isn't the best. I was really disappointed with Iago. He's the character out of these sidekicks that lost a significant amount of screen time from the original. He's voiced by Alan Tudyk which I had no idea because he just sound like a generic parrot squawking. What make Iago so great in the original is that he was voiced by Gilbert Gottfried (brilliant casting because who would want a parrot that sounds like Gilbert Gottfried?) and while he does use a squawking parrot voice when he's around other people, when he's alone with Jafar he talks to him as he were a normal human and we see he's a lot smarter than he lets on and has a vast vocabulary. They seem to keep it a bit more realistic in this movie where the parrot, while sometimes says smart-aleck things, only talks in a few words and phrases and probably wouldn't be able to carry on a conversation with a human. Also, I never heard anyone refer him to as "Iago", although it's possible I just missed that, but I swear towards the end of the movie Jafar calls him simply, "Parrot". There are a lot of scenes from the original with him that were cut, but he does get a pretty big part (no pun intended!) during an action scene towards the end of the movie where he becomes a huge bird (helped by Jafar who has become a sorcerer with one of his genie wishes) and chases Aladdin and Jasmine, who are on the magic carpet, around Agrabah to seize the lamp.

We have the same songs as the original, plus a new song that Jasmine gets to belt out called "Speechless" that's very empowering, so it's nice she finally gets her own song. Too bad it's just kind of meh. I mean, I guess it's okay, but I feel like it's trying to be "Let It Go", but it's just not as good. Also, if you were to ask a young kid who didn't know all the original songs which one wasn't in the animated version, they would probably guess right. Some of the music arrangements were changed around a little bit, but it' still (pretty much) the same lyrics. I did notice that they changed some lyrics to "Arabian Nights"  which isn't the most culturally sensitive song and instead of using "barbaric" in the line, "It's barbaric, but hey, it's home!" they use "chaotic." There were probably other slight changes, but that was the only one I noticed. The end credits pull a Slumdog Millionaire where the cast is doing sone Bollywood (I didn't know Agrabah was in India!) dance to a remix version of "Friend Like Me" featuring DJ Khaled. Ugh, no thanks. I love "Summertime" and "Getting Jiggy With It" as much as the next person, and while Will Smith does a decent job with the genie songs, he just doesn't hold a candle to Robin Williams who sang those songs with a lot more energy (and a lot more different voices!) He doesn't even scat during "Friend Like Me", but he has more hip hop influences. I think he was slightly better singing "Prince Ali", but I think that might have been because he was in human form and I didn't have to look at that scary CGI genie. I was disappointed that they didn't have the "Don't they look lovely, June?" and "Fabulous, Harry, I love the feathers" lines, but  I did laugh when he sings, "He's got monkeys, a lot of monkeys" which is taken out of the original song. The new pop version of "A Whole New World" isn't as good as the '92 pop version, but I do think it is much better than the new pop version of "Beauty and the Beast." The songs from the '92 version are much superior than the newer versions and they will always be.

So there appears to be some new rules since the last movie with the wish-making. Remember in the animated movie when they're trapped in the Cave of Wonders and Aladdin tricks the Genie into getting them out of there without using one of his three wishes? In the remake, Aladdin says, "Genie, I wish for you to get us out of this cave" and I'm thinking, Oh, so they're counting this as one of the wishes. But, no. Apparently, when making a wish, the master of the Genie has to be rubbing the lamp. What kind of bs is that? Also, wouldn't an all-knowing genie KNOW when one isn't rubbing the lamp? Duh. I don't know, I thought that was really stupid. The wishes are all the same: Aladdin wishes to be a prince, the Genie saves him from drowning after Jafar captures him and tries to kill him, and of course, he sets the Genie free.

Speaking of Jafar, he's not as, ahem, animated as he is in the '92 movie. He doesn't come off as very menacing to me. He has this weird obsession with invading the country Jasmine's mother is from. I can't remember the name of it which is surprising because he must mention invading it at least 3,000 times. Sadly, this Jafar does not have his pun game on because that scene where he spits out pun after pun in the animated movie is not in this one. But I feel like this Jafar doesn't have any fun and thus his pun game isn't up to par. This Jafar also never calls Aladdin "Prince Abubu."

I admit I haven't seen many of Guy Ritchie's movies, none of them really appeal to me. I've only seen Sherlock Holmes. I heard he likes to use a lot of slow motion in his movies and live-action Aladdin was no exception. He especially likes to use it when characters are falling. We see it when Aladdin is falling towards the water when he's been tied to the chair by Jafar and when Abu falls off the magic carpet with the lamp.

One of my biggest complaints about this movie (besides the CGI) would have to be how dark it is during some pivotal scenes. It's very dark in the Cave of Wonders and it's very dark during the "A Whole New World" magic carpet ride scene. Yes, it is nighttime during these scenes in the animated movie too, but at least they can work with color and make it more vivid, not too mention you have more room with animation and this story just lends itself better to animation, especially with the Genie. There were quite a few young kids (twelve and younger) in my audience and I can only hope that their parents showed them the animated movie and that's why they were seeing it. Give me the animated movie, all day, every day.

 Haha, so when I was walking out of the theater there was a display for the new Chucky movie and this girl, probably eight or nine, tells her mom she wants to see that (WTF?) and her mom goes, "No, you are not seeing that! It's too creepy."

Want to know the most outrageous thing about my excursion to the movies? I paid $5.76 for a small drink! I had a free movie pass and a coupon for a free small popcorn, so at least that was all I spent, but still! That much for a small drink; can you believe that? I can get a large iced latte at Scooters for the exact same price! This is why I sneak my snacks into theaters!

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