Aladdin Review: Naomi Scott Soars
There has been much trepidation toward Aladdin since the first blue Will Smith graced our screens and it has had me suspicious of the film since then. Heading into the theater, I was open-minded and ready to accept this new Aladdin for what it was.
The story is relatively similar to the original with a few tweaks to bring it up to modern standards regarding a few questionably racial stereotypes present in the original. A few notable changes include the beginning of the film which no longer features a merchant in the bazaar and the addition of Daliah, a handmaiden to the princess. Despite these changes, the integrity and wonder that was present in the original still thrive in this version, perhaps even more so. Using incredible costume design and choreography, the film creates a world of wonder.
As I’m sure you have heard, Naomi Scott is truly the standout performance in Aladdin. She brings an intensity and purity to the role and steals the show with her song, “Speechless” which you can 100% expect to see around Oscar season. Her take on Princess Jasmine and the changes to the storyline really serve as a modern inspiration for young girls. Her strength and resilience are a shining light in the film and empowers the audience. Mena Massoud as Aladdin gives a wonderful performance but didn’t shine as brightly as Naomi Scott. This is in no part his fault, but I believe is a result of the shift in the story.
The hotly debated Will Smith tackled the iconic role of the Genie made famous by Robin Williams in the original film. While there was much apprehension regarding his part in the film, his performance was decent. The only issue I had really with it was he was in it a bit too much. He plays a really active role from very early on and I felt it was a little too much of his own personality rather than becoming a character. He really was just Will Smith as a Genie. We even get some of his infamous rapping, which did nothing to distance the actor from the character.
Marwen Kenzari as Jafar was a miss for me as well. The actor looks very different from the original and comes off more as just angry than sinister. It could be that they attempted to bring the character to the modern world by talking about world domination and war, but it came off too strong and heavy-handed. Nasim Pedrad as Dalia, Jasmine’s handmaiden, and Will Smith’s Genie bring most of the comedy and they work really well together. I really want to see Pedrad in more roles.
The costume design is beautiful, bright, and colorful, really transporting the audience to a whole new world. Jasmine’s dresses are so intricately designed and while containing nods to the original, are totally reinvented. The set design and choreography are stunningly done creating a world of wonder and magic for our characters to shine. While the choreography stands out, there are a few cinematography choices that didn’t work well for me. The use of slowing down the speed during the chase scene in the bazaar was particularly off-putting. It was distracting more than it helped the scene.
The reimagined music is as catchy as the original and the accompanying dance numbers are spectacular. However, some of the new music added didn’t really fit in well with the rest of the film. It sticks out pretty obviously since it doesn’t follow a similar style. This may not be a bad thing, just something very obvious that may bother some people.
In the end, Aladdin feels like a fresh take on the original story with a few missteps in giving Will Smith far too much screen time and focusing less on the relationship between Jasmine and Aladdin. Naomi Scott is the saving grace of the film and this role will certainly skyrocket her career.