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REVIEW: ‘Aladdin’ is a fun ride with a solid message for kids

May 24th, 2019 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Aladdin’ is a fun ride with a solid message for kids

Credit Disney

Aladdin is an orphaned street urchin who only steals when necessary. Unfortunately for the people of Agrabah, that’s all the time.

“Gotta steal to eat,” he says.

He steals food from the vendors. He steals jewelry from the shoppers. It seems he’ll be stealing every day until he dies.

But one person sees past his swindling ways. Her name is Jasmine, a woman from the palace who claims to be a servant yet who actually is the princess. Her father is the Sultan, Agrabah’s leader. Their accidental street encounter turns into love at first sight.

Sadly, though, marriage is out of the question in Agrabah’s class system. Aladdin is a worthless peasant. Jasmine is royalty.

Then again, maybe there isa chance.

Aladdin is kidnapped by a nefarious man named Jafar and tricked into entering a cave to retrieve a magical lamp that houses a genie. Although Jafar is the intended recipient, the lamp ends up in the hands of Aladdin, who is granted three wishes and wide latitude. Jasmine wastes little time in making his first wish.

“I wish to become a prince,” he says, hoping to impress Jasmine’s family. Will his plan work?  

Disney’s live-action musical Aladdin (PG) opens this weekend, 27 years after the animated version that won two Oscars was released. It stars Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness) as Genie, Mena Massoud (Jack Ryan) as Aladdin, and Naomi Scott (Power Rangers, The 33) as Jasmine.

The film is 30 minutes longer than the G-rated original (roughly two hours compared to 90 minutes), has music updated to today’s sound (Will Smith’s Friend Like Mesounds more hip hop than Robin Williams’ version), and changes a few elements of the story (for example, Jasmine talks often about her desire to be sultan).

Thankfully, the movie stays in mostly family-friendly territory, too. (That is, assuming you’re OK with a romance that includes brief kissing.)

The movie follows Aladdin as he chases after Jasmine’s heart and Jafar as he seeks the magical lamp.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Minimal. The cave is a spooky-looking hole in the mountain. It even talks. It also nearly collapses on Aladdin and his monkey friend Abu in a near-death scene that may frighten sensitive children. (Aladdin and Abu almost fall into lava.) Jafar pushes someone into a well. Later, in another near-death scene, Aladdin is shoved into the ocean and sinks to the bottom. He nearly drowns but is rescued. Jafar practices what he describes as sorcery and uses a snake-shaped staff.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Minimal. Unlike the animated film, Jasmine doesn’t wear belly-revealing outfits (minus one or two brief scenes). Some of her dresses, though, are low-cut.

Genie is shirtless for most of the film.

Aladdin and Jasmine kiss twice.

Coarse Language

None.

Other Positive Elements

We see Aladdin give some of his stolen goods to other people. Genie tells Aladdin there isn’t enough money and power in the world “for you to be satisfied.” Aladdin, after lying to Jasmine, decides to tell her the truth. Aladdin follows through with his promise to Genie.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

We learn Aladdin lost his parents when he was young. The lamp and flying carpet are called “magical.” Genie says he’s the most powerful being in the universe. 

Life Lessons

The movie provides lessons on the power of sin and temptation (various characters), overcoming your past (Aladdin), the need for courage (Jasmine), and the importance of a person’s character, beliefs and heart (or as the movie calls it, “what on the inside”).

The plot’s inclusion of stealing will make some parents uncomfortable. (It’s in the 1992 film, too.) “I steal only what I can … and that’s everything,” Aladdin sings. Some children may walk away thinking stealing is permissible. Be prepared for a post-movie discussion.  

Worldview/Application

It’s a fictional world where God isn’t the most powerful being in the universe. Genie is.

Still, Aladdincan teach us a lot about temptation and sin. Two characters in the film are granted three wishes, but only one of them passes the test. It seems most people ask for money and power.

“Do not drink from that cup,” Genie says.

It’s a theme borrowed from the pages of Scripture.

The lust for power was at the heart of Satan’s fall. Adam and Eve, too, fell because they wanted to be like God.

But if we were granted three “wishes,” what would we request? A better job? A bigger house? Money? Power? Hopefully, our answers would have an eternal focus.

Perhaps we also should ask: What are the topics of our prayers? 

Such a hypothetical exercise can reveal a lot about our heart. 

Partners

Subway, Zales and MAC Cosmetics.

What Works

The choreography. The magic carpet rides. The music (at least, most of it).

What Doesn’t

At two hours, the length may see long to families with small, restless children.

Discussion Questions

1. If you were granted three wishes, what would you request?

2. Is it ever OK to steal? Does it matter if the person is poor?

3. What does Aladdinteach us about the importance of a person’s heart (that is, what’s on the inside)?

4. Aladdinis called “worthless.” Why did he do to overcome that label? Did that label bother him? Does it hurt you when people call you names?

5. Does our modern-day society have classes of people?

Entertainment rating:3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating:4 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG for some action/peril.