The live action remake of Aladdin is good. Really good. It’s colorful, funny, full of heart, and somewhat different than the animated version. My whole family really enjoyed it, more than we anticipated. Here’s why we liked it and some of the conversation starters that are contained within the movie.
Why Aladdin is great for teens and tweens
While your teens may think of Aladdin as a cartoon for little kids and be wary, the live action movie is not at all “babyish.” It’s also slightly different from the animated version. While it’s not jarring, it is enough to keep the movie from feeling like an exact rehash of the animated version.
No spoilers, but safe to say that there are a few characters not in the 1992 movie, including Dalia, Jasmine’s handmaid played by the great Nasim Pedrad.
We also learn a little more of Jasmine’s backstory, she gets a powerful new song, and she’s a far more developed character than in the first movie. Naomi Scott is getting rave reviews for her performance, and they’re well-deserved.
The Genie also gets a new story line that makes him a bit more multidimensional as well. Will Smith does a great job as the Genie and while he’s not Robin Williams, he doesn’t try to be. Taking one of the themes of the movie to heart, he’s very much himself. He brings his own brand of charm, and it works.
There are some great messages that are especially important for teens and tweens, including why you should always be yourself, the value of telling the truth, and fighting for what you believe as well as what you want. It’s also a great example of how stories, and people/characters, can look a bit different when you view them from different perspectives.
The English major and journalist in me also sees this as a great lesson in editing – what gets left in or ut and how does that change the story? The structural storytelling framework of this film was something Disney had in mind for the animated film but it got changed. I thought it added a lot to this film and it was fun to talk about that with teen, in addition to the conversation starters below.
Confession time: I was looking forward to this movie, but I enjoyed it more than I anticipated. The trailers were fine, but they don’t do the movie justice. My teen loved it and was especially taken with Jasmine. I loved how bright and colorful the film was. It was fun, and that’s just what we needed.
Conversation starters to use with tweens and teens after seeing Aladdin
There’s always the fun question of what would your three wishes be? But the movie is packed full with lots of questions and topics for discussion that could lead to some great talks with your tweens and teens. They’re always happier to talk about
- How did you feel about the ways this movie was different from the animated version released in 1992? Do you think the changes are good? Do you think they reflect changes in society in the past 27 years?
- Why was Aladdin afraid to be his true self with Jasmine at first? Do you think the Genie was right when he said, “The more you gain by pretending, the less you are going to have”?
- Did you like Jasmine’s new song “Speechless”? Using your voice is important, but could you argue that the movie also shows that it’s important to listen? Would things have turned out differently had Hakim failed to listen?
- There are a few different moments in the film that make the point that material goods are not always as great as they seem. That’s not often the message in the media. Was it effective here? Did the lavish palace make that less convincing?
- “Be specific with your words,” Genie cautions Aladdin early on, and that’s good advice. Has there been a time when you (or someone you know) were not specific with your words and that had negative consequences?
- There isn’t any swearing in the movie. Did you notice? Did you miss it?
- Trust is an issue in Aladdin. How do you decide who to trust? What advice would you give the characters about trusting each other?
- “Our greatest challenge is not speaking up against our enemies but defying those whose approval we seek,” says the Genie. Do you think that’s true?
- Aladdin has a message about serving others. Jasmine talks about serving the people of her kingdom, and Aladdin has to choose whether to be selfish or selfless when it comes to his final wish. Has there ever been a time when you opted to serve someone else? Did making someone else’s life better make your life better, too?
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