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Aladdin

A street rat wishes his way to a crown in this entertaining but flawed remake

 

     Street kid Aladdin (Mena Massoud) dreams of a better life. His encounter with disguised princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) motivates him to seek a higher station in life and make himself marriageable. 

      So he jumps at a mysterious man’s offer of untold wealth, agreeing to enter a magical cave to retrieve a lamp. Things go wrong, however, and Aladdin finds himself trapped in a magical cave with a worthless lamp.

     Or is he?

     It turns out the worthless hunk of brass is actually a vessel for an all-powerful Genie (Will Smith). Can Aladdin use the Genie to win the girl of his dreams? Or will greed blind him?

     Entertaining, muddled and redundant, Aladdin is the latest in Disney’s litany of live-action remakes.

     Director Guy Ritchie (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) seems to fly through the material, which is a blessing and a curse. The movie assumes most viewers have at least a working knowledge of the Aladdin story and original film. Younger viewers who’ve never seen the cartoon may get lost in the speedy retelling. The pacing is odd because the film has many interruptions, sometimes for an extraneous dance number, sometimes to add a B-plot love story and sometimes because action-director Ritchie is incapable of five minutes of film that has no building knocked down. 

     Elements of India, the Middle East and even Chinese cultures are mashed together in a confusing amalgam. Bolly­wood dance numbers with breakdancing appear with shocking frequency. Aladdin and Jasmine speak with American accents, but all villain and secondary players sound vaguely Middle Eastern. 

      Not all is lost, however. 

     Scott is wonderful as Jasmine, with a gorgeous voice and a lovely screen presence. Her beefed-up role gives her hopes and dreams. This Jasmine is an impressive woman who wants to become the sultan herself and rule Agrabah as her mother had hoped she would. Admirable as it is that Jasmine has a goal and more on her mind than the cute thief she met at the market, it’s still annoying that she seems to have agency over her life and choices only when men aren’t around. 

     The star, however, is Smith. Cast in a role made legendary by the late Robin Williams, Smith makes Genie his own, with a sharper edge. He wants Aladdin to succeed, but he’s not above heckling the kid when he messes up. Smith’s natural charm gives the film many of its best moments. 

Fair Family Film • PG • 128 mins.

 

~~~ New this Week ~~~

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

     In a world invaded by Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah, humanity pins its hopes on Godzilla. 

     I’m going to level with you: The plots of monster movies make no sense. Human characters are essentially wastes of time. You buy a ticket to watch massive monsters fight their way through cities. 

     Fans of cacophonous destruction will love and cheer for the monsters as they smash everything in their path. Fans of intricate plotting and nuance will not be so satisfied. Know which side of the spectrum you fall on before you buy a ticket. 

Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 131 mins. 

 

Ma

      Maggie (Diana Silvers) and her friends think they’ve hit the jackpot when they meet Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer). The lonely lady buys them drinks and invites them back to her place so they can party without fear of cops or parents. The kids call her Ma.

     It seems too good to be true. 

     Because it is.

      A horror movie about a lonely psychotic woman is nothing new. But even a hackneyed story can be fun with the right nut. Spencer is the woman for the job. It should be fun to watch her menace teens. Still, it’s sad to see a woman with one Oscar and multiple nominations in B-horror movie. 

Prospects: Flickering • R • 99 mins. 

 

Rocketman 

      Before the glitter and outrageous costumes, Reginald Dwight (Taron Egerton) was a boy who loved playing the piano. How he transformed into international superstar Elton John is the stuff of legend and scandal. All are told in this musical drama about the life and times of Elton John.

      A movie that takes not only a warts-and-all approach but also frankly addresses the sexuality of its subject? That’s what Bohemian Rhapsody should have been. Even if Rocketman falls into biopic cliché, it will give a more nuanced look at a talented and polarizing figure. 

Prospects: Bright • R • 121 mins.