Aladdin Parent Guide
A fun, magic carpet ride of a film with a disappointingly limp villain but a wonderfully powerful princess.
Parent Movie Review
I’ll cut right to the chase. Disney’s live action remake of Aladdin works. I was afraid that the latest raid of the Mouse’s classic catalog would flop (hello, Dumbo) but fortunately, it lands in the hit column. It’s vibrant, energetic, and just plain fun.
The biggest challenge dogging this production is living up to the legacy of the late, great Robin Williams. His madcap, freewheeling genie is a masterpiece of improvisational comedy and is the crazy, comic heart of the 1992 animated film. I wondered if Will Smith could possibly be up to the task of trying to fill those big, curly-toed shoes…Wisely, Smith doesn’t try to be a second Robin Williams. He creates his own genie, and if it isn’t quite as brilliant as Williams’ magical lamp-dweller, it’s plenty entertaining (although some of the CGI is oddly clunky and his singing voice could be better).
The biggest flaw in the film – and it’s significant – is the villain. Grand Vizier Jafar, voiced by Jonathan Freeman in the original version, is a deliciously evil villain, who dominates every scene with his over the top, scenery-chewing performance. In sad contrast, the very bland Marwen Kenzari plays the supposedly malevolent Grand Vizier like an accountant with a toothache or a civil servant who’s discovered documents have been filed incorrectly. He’s not imposing, he’s not scary, and he just doesn’t feel diabolical. Even in the final confrontation, he manages to look more constipated than crazed. He leaves a giant, villain-sized hole in the movie – and that is a serous problem.
Fortunately, Aladdin has other sources of energy to counter the limp antagonist. Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, as Aladdin and Jasmine, bring great chemistry to their roles as the street rat and the princess with whom he falls in love. And both leads provide great positive messages for young viewers. Massoud clearly depicts Aladdin’s discomfort with his masquerade as a prince (done to get the girl) and the idea of living a lie. The genie drives home the messages of honesty and integrity. “The more you gain by pretending, the less you’re actually going to have” he tells his young master.
Parents will also be pleased that Jasmine’s role gets a 21st century upgrade. Scott takes the bikini-top wearing Jasmine from 1992 and imbues her with fierce intelligence and self-respect – and more clothes. In a feminist spin on the story, Jasmine isn’t a princess looking to be Queen consort – this is a princess who wants to be Sultan. And she’s not going to sit around and wait to be rescued or sit quietly while men determine her fate. “I won’t go speechless”, she defiantly proclaims in a new song written for this production (and which is likely to become a new girl power anthem). And her voice has real power – which will delight viewers who want to see more potent female role models in film.
Best of all, Aladdin manages to impart these messages without a lot of negative content. The only issues come with the plot-directed violence. There is no bloody action, but there are lots of chase scenes where characters are pushed, hit, and fall from heights and two scenes involving murder. And there are scenes of peril that render this film unsuitable for very young or easily frightened viewers.
Viewers hoping that this version of Aladdin would open up a “whole new world” might not get their wish. But, while it isn’t perfect, this magical tale is a fun and feminist reinterpretation of the original that the whole family will enjoy.Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, and Will Smith. Running time: 128 minutes. Theatrical release May 24, 2019. Updated May 27, 2019
Watch the trailer for Aladdin
Rating & Content Info
Why is Aladdin rated PG? Aladdin is rated PG by the MPAA for some action/peril
Violence: A cave collapses, trapping and presumably killing a man. Main characters are caught in a cave as it convulses and spews lava: this is a situation of extreme peril. A man is killed by being thrown down a well shaft. A main character is tied to a chair and thrown into the ocean where he nearly drowns. A woman talks about her tiger eating a prince. A man uses a magical staff to put people under spells and to torture people. A main character smashes the magic staff against the floor and destroys it. A magic carpet is torn. There are multiple chase scenes which could be frightening for some viewers. A main character falls significant distances on more than one occasion. A main character almost freezes to death in the snow.
Sexual Content: A man and woman kiss on a few occasions.
Profanity: No swearing, but a little bit of name-calling.
Alcohol / Drug Use: The genie drinks martinis on a few occasions.
Page last updated May 27, 2019
Aladdin Parents' Guide
If you could have three wishes what would you wish for? Why? Do you think there would be good or bad consequences from those wishes? What does Aladdin wish for? Do you think he chose wisely in his wishes? Do you think he should have wished for something else?
Aladdin has the genie turn him into Prince Ali. Why? Do you think pretending to be something you’re not is a good way to start a friendship? Do you think he could have had a relationship with Jasmine without pretending to be a prince? What were the consequences of his decision to become Prince Ali?
Jasmine sings a new song in this production, asserting that “I won’t go speechless”. However, women are often speechless in Disney films – or at least they provide a minority of the dialogue. Even in “princess films” where females are the main character, male characters speak more than women do. And it’s not just Disney movies – men have the majority of the dialogue in all Hollywood films. Why do you think that is?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Aladdin is drawn from the 1001 Arabian Nights, a compendium of traditional Arabian tales. N.J. Dawood has collected and retold these stories in Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights. A simpler version, lavishly illustrated by Christina Balit, is Donna Jo Napoli’s Tales from the Arabian Nights: Stories of Adventure, Magic, Love and Betrayal. Another lushly illustrated collection is The Arabian Nights: Sixteen Stories from Sheherazade, adapted by Neil Philip and illustrated by Sheila Moxley.
If you are looking for a collection geared to middle grade readers, Wafa Tarnowska’s The Arabian Nights: Chapter Book focuses on stories with powerful women.
Geraldine McCaughrean has written a novel based on the story of Shaharazad entitled One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.
In a story drawn from Scheherazade, A Thousand Nights, by E.K. Johnston tells the tale of a quiet young woman, taken to the king’s palace, where it is assumed that she will join the three hundred wives he has already killed. Unexpectedly, her stories intrigue him and he cannot bring himself to kill her. But her stories are not the greatest magic she commands…
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Young fans might enjoy going back and watching the original animated version of Aladdin and deciding which one they prefer.
Movies featuring a main character who is pretending to be someone else are pretty common. Mulan celebrates a young woman pretending to be a soldier to save her aging father’s life. Disney’s remake of the Rapunzel story, Tangled, features two protagonists: one of whom doesn’t know her true identity and another who is lying about his.
The unlikeliest people can become superheroes. In Shazam!, a fourteen year old foster kid named Billy Batson unexpectedly gains superpowers after an encounter with a wizard.