‘No, no, no singing. It’s been a long day’, says the father (Will Smith) to his two children on the boat. That he promptly breaks into a song is a different matter and one which follows the Disney trend for the ensuing couple of hours.
Borrowed from ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ – ‘Aladdin and the Magic Lamp’ is a story one has almost certainly heard in childhood. This one, with a script by John August – director Guy Ritchie smoothening its edges – has Navid Negahban as the Sultan of (a fictitious kingdom) Agrabah. His comely daughter, Jasmine (Naomi Scott), roams around anonymously like a commoner. One day she chances upon a young lad Aladdin (Mena Massoud), whose sleight-of-hand matches the kleptomania of his pet monkey Abu. He is bewitched by her beauty. The Sultan’s Royal Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), who has designs on the kingdom – besides Jasmine – entices Aladdin to enter ‘the cave of wonders’ and steal for him a lamp. How the lad outwits the nefarious Jafar and his scheming parrot in the ensuing 100 minutes is the crux of the film.
The 2019 live-action adaptation differs from the earlier versions, notably the 1992 animated version in at least a couple of ways – the introduction of two characters: handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad) and Prince Anders (Billy Magnussen), Jasmine’s suitor. Though the film is a visual treat and the technical design is superior, the script, with a couple of avoidable sub-plots, loses its pace midway through the movie. Marwan Kenzari is the weak link, especially in the early parts of the film. The score by veteran Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid) is catchy. The adaptation of earlier songs ‘Whole New World’ and ‘You’ve Never Had a Friend Like Me’ works well for the film. Will Smith is his usual exuberant self while Naomi Scott (whose mother is Gujarati) holds great promise. With a talking monkey and parrot, this 3-D version will be well accepted by the younger generation.