3 Stars – Wholesome
Aladdin is a cinematic masterpiece. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Will Smith as the Genie, Mena Massoud as Aladdin, and Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, the ensemble is engaging and believable. As a mixture of musical and drama the proper balance has been achieved and the songs choreographed in entertaining ways. The dance led by Will Smith after the end of the film is reminiscent of the similar number at the end of MIB.
The story of Aladdin is well known so it is not the intrigue of the plot but rather the wholesome nature of this multilayered message that is valuable. It is not only a rags to riches tale where a street thief becomes the prince, but it is a story of good beating evil, love defeating power, innocence overcoming deceit, intelligence besting sorcery and freedom over various forms of enslavement.
Like the nefarious fulfillment of a leprechaun’s three wishes, the Genie’s literal fulfillment of a wish can and usually does leave out the necessary foundation for the joy expected. This is seen in Aladdin’s wish to become a prince so that he may be legally able to marry his beloved princess. However, the granting of the wish is only superficial, he has no kingdom or wealth that an actual prince would have and so he is a prince only in external trappings.
The same is true of the final wish of the villain, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). Realizing that his first two wishes only gave him limited esteem and power he wished for ultimate position and unsurpassed power only to discover too late the enslavement such a wish produces.
The internal struggle of Aladdin when he realizes that he is living a lie that is about to cost him Jasmine’s respect and love, is one that every lover faces. Do we become what we think our beloved wants or do we stay true to our self and risk the possibility of loss inherent in such authenticity? Also present within Aladdin is his struggle to be true to his good nature to set the Genie free. Does he use his last wish for himself, as all the other “masters” had done for thousands of years, or does he act in a way that is self-sacrificing for the well-being of the Genie?
Though set in an imaginary world of Arabian nights and magical power, in reality this tale is our story. That is why it connects now for hundreds of years as an Arabic folktale made famous by Syrian story teller Hanna Diyab and translated into French in 1709 by Antoine Galland. Though some believe Galland created the story of Aladdin, whatever the historical reality, it is a parable to be told with multiple lessons to be learned.
1. If you had three wishes what would they be and how would you protect yourself from the unexpected consequences?
2. The chemistry that Aladdin and Jasmine have is clear to both of them until position and wealth contaminate it. How often do you think we miss true love because of such contamination?
3. The power of a sorcerer by definition means that whatever is accomplished is not real. Thus the Genie cannot make someone love you. If this is true, why do you think so many want to conjure up wealth as a way to “buy” love? Or have they sold their soul to greed and power like Jafar?