When it comes to Aladdin songs, “Friend Like Me” is the showstopper. Sure “A Whole New World” is beautiful and “Prince Ali” is catchy, but it’s that big, intro song sung by the genie that sticks in your head the most. So when the lights went down at CinemaCon 2019 and “Friend Like Me” from Guy Ritchie’s upcoming live-action remake played, it was kind of a make it or break it moment.
Which is why I’m happy to report...it kind of works! But I will admit, it is very jarring to see and hear how the song has been reinterpreted for this film. For about 15 seconds, I sat there a tiny bit in shock. My eyes wide and my jaw dropping towards the ground. Then, a few more seconds pass, and you sort of get used to it. Soon, you begin tapping your toe, and finally, you’re excited to see this song you know and love changed ever so slightly for a new generation.
What do I mean exactly? Well, Will Smith as the genie doesn’t quite sing. He kind of talks through it the number. So it sounds a little bit like a rap, but with a little more melody. Plus, the lyrics have been ever so slightly changed here and there. For example, “Mister Aladdin, sir,” has been changed because the genie doesn’t know his name yet. So he changes it to “Mister what’s your name” and things like that. Again, it’s slightly off-putting, but also okay.
The visuals are really impressive too. Much like Robin Williams’ animated version of the genie did in the original film, Smith’s genie quickly transforms himself into different beings with different outfits, giving the whole scene a lot of energy. It’s bright, it’s shiny, and it can get super random. For instance, the line “Try some of column A, try all of column B” has Aladdin standing by as a huge rack of clothes appears as Column A, he grabs some items and then a huge line of jewelry is Column B. Almost everything we see is different from what we know, but also oddly appropriate.
The dancing is really strong. The genie doesn’t look as creepy as we’d all expected. All in all, after being initially taken back by how different the whole thing felt, at the end, I was very anxious to see what Guy Ritchie had in store for the rest of this movie. It’s not going to be the Aladdin we know and love. This is very much something different. But the spirit seems to be there, and that’s incredibly important.
Aladdin, directed by Guy Ritchie, is out May 24.
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