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I was really worried about this version of Aladdin. Early on, everyone was making fun of how goofy Will Smith looked in blue. And of course, there are all the complaints about remaking a classic. Coming off of the disappointment of Tim Burton’s Dumbo a few months ago, having Guy Ritchie direct seemed an odd choice. I’ve loved his movies Snatch, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, RocknRoll, and even his Sherlock Holmes film was fun. Not such a big fan of The Man from U.N.C.L.E or King Arthur, and those were his more recent films.

Perhaps Ritchie wasn’t the best choice to do these musical numbers (many complained about a Bollywood feel), but who cares? It was a lot of fun.

There will be people that knock Will Smith because Robin Williams was so great as the genie, but it was a great choice that Smith didn’t try to emulate him. He made the genie his own. It was also refreshing that he didn’t try to make the genie some super hip, hip-hop character. He felt more like his character Hitch. He was cool, but more of a nice guy than a hipster, as he offered Aladdin advice on women. The moments where the genie shows his charming side and offers advice to Aladdin on women, were easily my favorite moments of the film.

Aladdin is played by newcomer Mena Massoud, and he’s terrific in the role. So is Naomi Scott as Jasmine. They have great chemistry and make for a rather handsome couple.

Perhaps the weak link is Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). That’s not to say I hated the character, he just wasn’t as strong a villain as he could’ve been. Keep in mind, it’s a lot easier to make an animated villain a lot more sinister with how it’s drawn.

Now, the character that’s getting bashed online is a prince that shows up to court Jasmine. He is from ‘Skanland’ and is played by Billy Magnussen (who was so great as the dolt in Game Night last year). People are complaining about this character being white, which is silly. For the changes that needed to be done to the character (he was also a bit dense), it worked. Also, people like to talk about Hollywood being “inclusive.” Well…wouldn’t that mean also having a Caucasian in a role? And as my wife said, it shows that even princes from far away would want to travel this far to meet the princess. You’ll laugh at every word out of his mouth, and coming off his great comedic performance in Game Night…he might be the new Owen Wilson for comedies.

We all know and love these songs, but you’ll be surprised at just how much fun all the dance numbers are.

While the CGI in the early trailers may have worried fans, it was great. The tiger looked menacing, and the monkey was terrific looking. The facial expressions crack you up.

My wife thought the parrot wasn’t as funny as the original (Gilbert Gottfried), but each time he had a sarcastic line, I was laughing.

It’s also great that this movie can be a treat for the whole family, even though it has a PG rating. It’s also surprising that it’s over two hours, and doesn’t feel like it. Often times, I gripe that 30 minutes could’ve been chopped out. I don’t have that complaint with this.

That doesn’t mean the framing is always perfect, or that it’s not uneven and clunky at times.

I’m going to take away a star for the horrible new song Jasmine sings about not being “speechless” and the song in the closing credits (which also has another Hitch moment). In that song, we had to hear the annoying DJ Khaled yell his name. Apparently, that’s what the music industry wants these days — a guy that yells his name over other people’s songs.

3 stars out of 5.


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