Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
What does it mean to choose wisely? What is wise? Answer
What does Scripture say about STEALING? Answer
What does the Bible say about SORCERY? Answer
About ORPHANS in the Bible
Kings and royal families of ancient times
Naomi Scott … Princess Jasmine
Will Smith … Genie
Mena Massoud … Aladdin
Billy Magnussen … Prince Anders
Alan Tudyk … Iago (voice)
Nasim Pedrad … Dalia
Marwan Kenzari … Jafar
Numan Acar … Hakim
Frank Welker … Cave of Wonders (voice) / Abu (voice) / Rajah, the tiger
Navid Negahban … Sultan
See all »
Walt Disney Pictures
See all »
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Apleasant surprise: this is a good-quality musical, and morally far better than the original. It’s truly a family movie, except that its many scary scenes make it unsuitable for young children.
For those unfamiliar with the 1992 animated version, featuring Robin Williams as the voice of Genie (a friendly wish-granting spirit), the basic story-line is as follows. Jafar, the evil grand vizier (Sultan’s adviser) of Agrabah, is obsessed with obtaining a genie lamp hidden in The Cave of Wonders, so that he can seize total power. The lamp can only be retrieved by ‘The Diamond in the Rough’ Aladdin, so Jafar sets out to manipulate this simple street thief into capturing the lamp for him.
Meanwhile, the sultan’s beautiful daughter Jasmine feels trapped in her wealth and position, confined within palace walls. One day she dares to sneak into the marketplace, meets Aladdin, and they fall in love. However, he cannot marry her unless he is a prince. Intercepted by Jafar, Aladdin agrees to go into the Cave of Wonders to get the lamp and his chance to escape the life of poverty and theft he feels trapped in, become a prince and marry the princess.
Everything changes when deep in the cave he rubs the genie lamp and finds himself suddenly able to ask any three wishes. What will he choose? Will he choose wisely? How will the wishes change their lives?
The main twist in this new version is that Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and Aladdin (Mena Massoud) share the hero role. It also features lavish and spectacular scenery, costuming, new songs and deeper character work. Great care has been taken to choose actors of the “right ethnicity,” and the casting choice of Will Smith as Genie also pays off marvelously, as he brings a light hip-hop flavor and large lovable smile.
The frequent good manners are a lovely surprise. There is desire for marriage and raising a family and the heroes highly value human life. Self-sacrificial love is shown, and the value of freedom, followed by joyous gratefulness. Aladdin’s remorse for crimes, self-restraint from temptations and slow developing of trust are properly dealt with. Blind ambition is portrayed as clearly wrong and foolish, as someone scorns a leader because “you (only) seek glory for yourself.”
Other threads woven in are a positive view of women’s education and voice; rejection of the expectation that a woman should always “be seen and not heard;” and the love advice to be yourself instead of lying to impress.
Best of all, I’m glad to see that makers have taken a more family-friendly approach, using fewer revealing outfits, less gold-lust, less violence and far less insulting language than the original Disney animation. In fact, the speech is very clean indeed—I didn’t notice even one swear word or profane outburst. And the vilest (I think) character in the original—the parrot—involves no anthropomorphism and now says very little.
Wise choices indeed.
There is a slightly lesser amount of concerning content, and some content that could be interpreted several ways.
Obviously, the idea of a thief being the hero of the story is unsettling—but this is fairly thoroughly dealt with. We see countless thefts and deceptions by two men and a monkey and being chased by ‘lawmen’ often looks like a fun thrill, but it’s clearly a way of life that Aladdin is trying to leave behind. Stolen items are pawned to obtain food which is then shared with beggar children. Aladdin’s face, words and actions show the stigma, weariness and frustration that a thief role takes on him over time. This seems a healthy view, however, later, Jasmine calls him “Thief” very affectionately, as though she has come to love the word.
Being a romantic story, there are references to attraction and chemistry. Aladdin takes Jasmine back to his ‘penthouse’ when they first meet, just to see it. In everyday life there are groups of women who swoon over his good looks. In one vast scene, cleavage and midriff are seen during belly-dancing, Bollywood-style numbers. However, generally, necklines and hemlines are very modest. Unfortunately, it is the princess’s costumes that reveal a distracting amount of cleavage in almost every scene. When she and Aladdin touch they usually both gasp and their breathing alters as though aroused. There is also some context-appropriate flirting, hip-swaying couples’ dances, light touches to each other’s faces, hand-holding, hugs and ordinary kisses. So, altogether, there is a significant amount of mild sensuality.
Some mentions of women display disrespect and objectification. Once someone says, “Heard the princess is HOT. Where is she?” but Jasmine is visibly offended, so this is clearly a wrong thing to say. Another time she asks Aladdin, “What do you hope to buy with this?” and receives the rash answer: “You.” An apology later occurs.
The princess is also asked and then forced to agree to an arranged marriage. Then as the feisty Jasmine bucks the system, she takes an angry and determined approach that at times borders on arrogance.
Some viewers will have concerns about feminist undertones. Jasmine never seems to deliberately do any wrong, though Aladdin does plenty of wrong. I’m unsure whether her portrayal—especially in the song that says ‘I will not be silenced’—goes too far, but I can say that this aspect is certainly not extreme. We must remember that the context is Arabia, not the West, and this area has had specific cultural and social issues for women.
There are a few other odd comments, only used for comedic effect, that are unnecessary. A woman says, concerning her future children within marriage: “They will worship us (parents).” The only possibly-lewd comment, quick and subtle, is: “Just you and… a monkey… that’s your personal business, but we’ll talk about that later.”
Of course, there’s lots of use of fantasy magic and wishes, and explanations of genies’ powers. Genie is proud and vain, often posing or at a mirror, bare-chested in nearly all scenes, with exaggerated muscles, and he is apparently all-powerful. Once he does yoga moves, he puts on mannerisms of a male fashion designer, and later appears as a bearded lady, including significant cleavage. 2-3 times he sips from a martini glass—this is the only alcohol in the film.
The villain’s blatant evil was a primary concern about the 1992 version, and this remake, too, revolves around his power-lust and sorcery. He is war-hungry, uses spells to control and hurt victims, and his soldiers are armed with large flashy swords. He has an astrology sphere and spell book in his room, plus huge cobra statues. He has a cobra-shaped staff for hypnotism, and at one point the staff is a real snake. The villain says, “Do you know what I had to do to get to where I am? …the bodies I buried…” and, “You were born worthless… only your fleas will mourn you.” But he doesn’t appear sleazy or chain up a woman to stay at his side, like in the original.
This does not mean he is mild or not scary. At one stage, the villain appears as a large red genie, and his eyes go black as if demon-possessed. Like Satan, he wants to be the most powerful being in the universe, refuses to be second to anyone and appears to deny or outrank God. This is a blasphemy.
If you need to talk about this with youngsters, remind them that the Genie is make-believe, but our Creator is real. It may also be helpful to note that the rules of genie-use clearly place genies in a lesser role than what we as Christians believe God is and can do. The limitations on genies and their masters are as follows. A genie…
In contrast, the God of the Bible has no master, goes wherever He likes, does as He pleases, has total power over life and death (1 Samuel 2:6-8) and does bring together couples for marriage, though He also allows us free choice. If He serves someone it is a loving choice, not a duty.
What other problems are in “Aladdin”? Violence and shocks come from attacks from a large tiger, giant bird, rearing horse, foot stomping on a hand, attempted drowning and other murder plots. There are stick fights, rocket launchers, cliff-hangings, many swords held to a throat and a person being tied to a chair then thrown off a cliff into the ocean. Natural dangers are also used, such as quicksand, tornado, fire, thunderstorm, lava, earthquake and sandstorm. These make it feel more like an action movie for adults, at times, than a family film.
Other potential triggers for viewers include fear of heights, a large animal licking a face, and issues of slavery and chaining people.
Insults do not feature heavily in this version, except the phrases “street rat” and “you are nothing,” both disregarding a person because of their social and financial caste.
Tunes and their words have power to stick in the minds and attitudes of viewers, especially children, for a lifetime. Often, they are presented in such a way that they can be viewed in a positive OR negative way and will mean something different to each audience. This results in us easily excusing as harmless something that may in fact damage a person’s developing spiritual health. Before viewing “Aladdin” or buying the soundtrack, you might like to know that its catchy songs include the following lines:
Is it okay to steal if you think that’s the only way you can survive? What can we do about being trapped in a sinful situation? When presented with a wonderful opportunity, how can we choose wisely? Is it natural and sensible to give everything to get ‘a better life?’ Are genies real, and is God anything like Genie? What is a sorcerer? Is it okay for a ruler to change a law to suit him or herself? Is real love like Hollywood-style romance?
These are the issues families are likely to be discussing after seeing “Aladdin.” Perhaps consider asking them to your children.
But first we must ask, “Is ‘Aladdin’ presenting a worldview consistent with the Bible’s worldview?” I say no. The realities of what is good or evil, God’s existence and the spiritual dimension are not correct and may confuse minds that are not yet mature.
Yet there are many improvements on the animated version, and it’s less spiritually troublesome than expected. And “Aladdin” is in the Fantasy genre anyway, and presented as such. The screenplay is not focused on treasures and temptations of the eye, but on relationship, truth and wise choices. Lessons about wealth not satisfying are taught, in near-identical language to Ecclesiastes 5:10.
Religions are barely mentioned (except for a rap during the credits), and, in terms of religious or occult imagery, there is only a brief nondescript wedding and the genie and sorcerer issues that have already been mentioned.
What is biblical WISDOM?
Moreover, the film is budding with opportunities for deep and wonderful conversations about how life works and how God loves.
There are also similarities to the Bible narrative. One similarity is the initial state of Aladdin and Jasmine both: trapped, longing, “having to” sin, lying, hopeless. This is how we all were before God made a way for us to live a life of freedom, purity, courage and hope, through Jesus.
The real Prince of Peace lived on Earth so that He knew what it was to be in poverty, oppressed, longing for a treasure that solves our problems—which He found not in romance or in ruling a country, but in God, and God’s plan for His life. Now Jesus offers Himself as a sacrifice to free each of us, to enable us to know and love the Master like He does, and to happily serve Him and humanity with our freedom. Sins are no longer a certain part of our lives; no Earthly wealth can compare to the Paradise ahead of us; our lessons help us to improve our lives today and we find a security in the unconditional Love shown by Christ toward his true followers, the perfect Prince! Now each Christian can truly ‘be yourself.’
The only other big issue to address here is whether Genie is like God, or is God like a genie? For those of us who grew up with “Aladdin” and its songs as an influence, we have had to realize that God is very different to the idea of a genie, and it would be disrespect for us to treat Him like one. Though He lavishly blesses us with the riches of knowing Christ Jesus, and “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose,” He also has the sovereign right to say no to His children when we request something with selfish motives or that doesn’t fit with His wonderful plan. And sometimes He grants a wish knowing it will cause difficult times that will refine our character and trust.
So, God is infinitely better than a genie, isn’t bound by the ‘genie rules’ and, of course, He is also our Creator.
Realistically, no matter what I say, many of you will watch “Aladdin” for nostalgic reasons and because it is such a big experience. Therefore, please take a little time to prepare yourself and your young ones by thinking through and perhaps discussing the issues mentioned above, using God’s Word. In this way you will move toward the cinematic thrill having a nourishing and long-lasting benefit.
My personal viewing experience was one of visual enjoyment, delight in much clean dialog, and relief about its morality. I appreciate learning more about Genie’s life, and the film’s great lessons regarding friendship and agape love. I like that relationships are built through honesty, commitment, trust and working things through. I like that it doesn’t revolve around wealth.
So, while there are still aspects I personally dislike, measured against today’s standards and the unforgettable “Aladdin” I grew up with, I have found this version to be a great pleasure.
I do consider it suitable for teens, if they have parental guidance and debriefing, unless they are already especially tempted by power or theft.
Children are perhaps best left at home, as they may be scared, confused and harmed by “Aladdin” unless they are particularly mature spiritually and accustomed to scary scenes.
My main cautions to everyone are to beware of mindlessly singing the songs and beware of the tendency to think of God and Genie as similar.
So, I didn’t expect to be saying this, but overall “Aladdin” seems like a cleaner movie option for teens and adults.
But the best news is that a real Prince has sacrificed an even greater thing than Aladdin to win your freedom, welcome you into a life of unconditional love with Him and to show you a whole new world: The New Heavens and New Earth, and a good life now.
“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” —Psalm 118:8-10
“Then the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you.” —Job 22:25-26
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.