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The ‘Aladdin’ Exit Survey

“Don’t you dare close your eyes” is a line in Alan Menken’s “A Whole New World”; it was also what Ringer staffers had to keep telling themselves when they first saw Will Smith’s Genie

Disney/Ringer illustration

After months upon months of seeing borderline terrifying footage of a blue-painted Will Smith as Genie, Aladdin finally hit theaters on Friday night. The latest in Disney’s efforts to remake classic animated movies, the new Aladdin was sometimes delightful, sometimes confounding, and as the Ringer staff found out, certainly not made for them.

1. What is your tweet-length review of Aladdin?

Amelia Wedemeyer: We didn’t need it, but whatever, it was fine!

Julie Phayer: I loved the part when DJ Khaled popped up outta nowhere.

Miles Surrey: I wish we got a much better movie.

Andrew Gruttadaro: You know when you go to Disney World and you go to one of those shows where a fake Aladdin does midlevel stunts with midlevel pyrotechnics? This felt a little too much like that.

Pat Muldowney: You don’t get to be mad that Will Smith was blue unless you also got mad that Mark Ruffalo was green. This movie was a blast.

Amanda Dobbins: I am too old for this, and kids are too young for this.

Jason Gallagher: It’s a fun kids’ movie. Let’s not overthink this one.

2. What was the best moment of the movie?

Gruttadaro: Every line reading by either Billy Magnussen or Nasim Pedrad (both playing characters that didn’t exist in the 1992 film).

Phayer: I loved the Genie’s introduction and performance of “Friend Like Me,” don’t @ me.

Wedemeyer: As a whole, I was just incredibly happy that Guy Ritchie didn’t fuck it up like I thought he would. The best part of 2019 Aladdin was that it wasn’t bad, and I truly mean that as a compliment.

Gallagher: I loved the lead actors. Whatever your opinion is on the idea of this movie, I dare you to see it and not be charmed to death by Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud.

Dobbins: I found the musical arrangements in this movie to be particularly flat, but here’s the thing: “A Whole New World” still slaps. You can play that song over a screensaver—which Guy Ritchie did—and still get a room full of people yelling UNBELIEVABLE SIGHTS! INDESCRIBABLE FEELING!

Surrey: The three minutes when Billy Magnussen showed up as a dense prince trying to court Princess Jasmine. I would watch a spinoff about Prince Anders joining his college baseball team in the kingdom of Skanland: Everybody Wants Anders!!, directed by Richard Linklater.

3. What was your least favorite part of the film?

Gallagher: The internet discourse around it.

Wedemeyer: The 1992 animated version of Aladdin was 90 minutes, so why did this movie have to be over two hours?

Surrey: Any time the CGI Genie flashed on the screen for more than five seconds, forcing you to confront the disturbing contrast between his white, human eyes and swole cerulean body.

Phayer: The meeting between Aladdin and Jasmine, and the ensuing “street rat” performance, felt too forced.

Dobbins: “Friend Like Me” was a low point. I love Will Smith, but Will Smith doing Robin Williams is … a lot.

Gruttadaro: I, for one, did not need to see muscled-out Jafar’s nipples.

Screenshots via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

4. Let’s talk about Will Smith as the Genie who raps and has sexual desires.

Gallagher: It was jarring at first—like the first time I had a Perrier. But after a few minutes, I got used to it.

Gruttadaro: That they added a “The Genie has sexual needs too” subplot was WILD, man.

Wedemeyer: Genies have hobbies, they need love! And in terms of Will Smith, I don’t think there was ever a question he would make Genie his own, rather than attempt Robin Williams’s version, which is probably the no. 1 reason he was cast. Disney needed a charming, likable actor, and I think they found it with Will Smith.

Surrey: Disney movies usually have very horny subtext, so I don’t mind the new Aladdin forgoing all subtlety and giving us not just a Genie who’s DTF, but also a Hot Jafar. You know you wanna rub their lamps. (I’m sorry.)

Dobbins: I’ll be honest: I’m fine with the sex stuff? Lol. Genie wants to live a life like the rest of us! Sorry for being enlightened!

Phayer: I appreciate that Will Smith did his own thing with the character and (mostly) didn’t attempt to re-create Robin Williams’s portrayal.

Muldowney: I was 10 when the first Aladdin was released and 15 when Will Smith released Big Willie Style. Those came at the perfect time for me to then fall in love with this iteration of the film. Also, I’m all for Disney adding a story line that let us know that Genie didn’t spend the rest of his post-lamp-life wandering the world alone.

5. Who was the MVP of Aladdin?

Dobbins: Abu’s pretty cute. They make these movies for the animals, right?

Surrey: Will Smith really, really tried.

Phayer: Come on now: the Genie. And Jasmine was wonderful as well.

Muldowney: Send me ALL OF YOUR TWEETS about this, I don’t care: Will Smith was great.

Gallagher: Naomi Scott, who played Jasmine.

Wedemeyer: Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott are both deserving of this award for doing a great job with Aladdin and Jasmine, respectively, but I’m actually going to give it to Alan Menken, who wrote all of the music for the 1992 and 2019 versions. There is no Aladdin without the songs; you can’t think of the movie without simultaneously humming “A Whole New World.”

Gruttadaro: The Disney Industrial Complex.

Daniel Smith

6. Finish the sentence: “The 2019 update of Princess Jasmine was …”

Phayer: … hella 2019.

Dobbins: … fine, until she started singing. (All respect to Naomi Scott; it’s the song, and not the singer, that I object to.)

Muldowney: … incredible. Naomi Scott is a real-life Disney princess, and you can’t convince me otherwise. She absolutely crushed the role of Jasmine and even as a person who doesn’t want to see the Disney movies I grew up with changed, I loved the addition of “Speechless.” She gave strong early 2000s pop ballad vibes; that song definitely could have been on Jessica Simpson’s Sweet Kisses album.

Gruttadaro: … definitely welcome, and Naomi Scott was great in the role. I just wish that “Speechless” performance didn’t come in an all-of-the-sudden dream sequence in the middle of the movie’s climax. Kinda seemed forced, which it did not need to be!

Gallagher: … good. She was good.

Surrey: … great in theory, not so much in execution. Her ham-fisted empowerment ballad, “Speechless,” stuck out as badly as Marvel’s “girl power” moment in Avengers: Endgame.

Wedemeyer: Listen, I get it. I understand why Disney is updating the princesses, and I appreciate it. But I’m not going to go out of my way to write a dissertation on how groundbreaking the update to Jasmine was when the original animated version was already a badass feminist princess.

7. Who had the best pet in Aladdin?

Muldowney: There’s no doubt that Abu is the best pet in this film. That monkey risked his life for Aladdin at least 100 times in two hours. You probably love your dog that much, but does your dog love you that much?

Phayer: Abu was adorable and helpful, but gimme a tiger like Rajah any day of the week.

Dobbins: Abu is the funniest, but Rajah is the coolest.

Wedemeyer: Jasmine, as always! Rajah is the best.

Surrey: You might question the long-term viability of a domesticated tiger—the day will come when instincts kick in and, oops, Rajah ate your handmaiden—but I mean, how friggin’ cool is a pet tiger?

Gruttadaro: As always, the correct answer is the magic carpet. (By the way, Carpet is a very good name for a dog, please do not steal it.)

8. Is the 2019 Aladdin a kid-friendly movie?

Gruttadaro: Maybe we should clear the paint for the only actual parent in this exit survey …

Gallagher: I think the real question is “Is the 2019 Aladdin an adult-friendly movie?”

Allow me to paint a picture. A guy in his early 30s walks into a playground. He does the monkey bars and slides down the curvy slide. He sits in the sandbox and plays with a truck. Then he walks over to the swings and has a seat next to a child who is having the time of her life.

Then he asks himself, “Yeah, but what’s the point?”

The live-action remake of Aladdin, like a playground, was made for kids. That’s it. I knew I’d be doing this exit survey so I looked around the theater during my screening. Not a single child was sitting in the theater with their arms crossed going “I’m not sure this works.” The theater was full of kids that were smiling and singing and laughing. As the Mouse intended.

If we’re still asking ourselves who this movie is for, consider my 5-year-old child’s real answers to a few questions on this exit survey (I omitted the “sexual desires” part):

But his answer to this very question was probably my favorite (and the most telling) …

The kid loved the movie. The kid also loves dipping his strawberries in ketchup from time to time. Let’s not overthink this, please.

9. Which animated film should Disney remake next? And who should be cast in it?

Phayer: The Little Mermaid with Zendaya and Liam Hemsworth; Seth Rogen as Flounder; Stephen A. Smith as the voice of Sebastian.

Wedemeyer: I am so ready for the live action Pinocchio, which will be a gritty, surrealist film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and will star Pete Davidson in the title role, with Stanley Tucci as Geppetto and Margot Robbie as the Blue Fairy.

Gruttadaro: The Aristocats—how timely!—starring all of the British actors now out of work after the end of Game of Thrones.

Surrey: I’ve got a new challenge for Disney: make family-friendly entertainment based on a wholly original concept. If it doesn’t turn a profit, you can always recoup the losses via Bob Iger’s annual bonus. Also, make another Tron movie, cowards!

Gallagher: Return of Jafar. Run it back with the same cast. Let’s go.