A first look at 'Aladdin': Live-action remake is a heart-warming crowd pleaser

The National’s Saeed Saeed offers his initial reaction to the Disney remake, after a press screening in Jordan

Will Smith is the Genie and Mena Massoud is Aladdin in Disney’s live-action ALADDIN, directed by Guy Ritchie.
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The anticipated live-action reboot of Aladdin is fun, heart-warming and destined to rule the box office when it arrives in UAE cinemas on May 23.

We got a sneak peek at the film, a remake of the 1992 animated classic, at a special press screening in Amman, Jordan.

Due to embargo reasons, we cannot discuss the film at length, but suffice to say that the Guy Ritchie-directed movie is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and should be enjoyed by all age groups.

In short, it’s fantastic. It’s funny, it’s flamboyant, it's witty, and I suspect it will do big business in the box office.

The screening in the Jordanian capital is part of the film's international media drive, which has already seen stars Will Smith (who plays the Genie), Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud (in the star-making role of Aladdin) and British actress Naomi Scott (Princess Jasmine) appear at premieres in London, Paris and Berlin.

The trio are now set to take part in a press conference in Amman on May 13 where they will shed light on their experiences shooting parts of the film in Jordan’s majestic Wadi Rum Desert.

This will be followed by a gala screening later that evening in the presence of Prince Ali bin Hussein, the chairman of Jordan's Royal Film Commission.

The Amman-based body assisted Aladdin's Jordanian shoot by facilitating logistics with local authorities, securing film permits and  hiring of 150 locals to supplement the existing crew.

The film brings the fictional city of Agrabah to life, with the main trio performing alongside cast members such as Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad and Billy Magnussen.

Massoud, who was born in Cairo and raised in Canada, last week opened up about the importance of actors from the region being represented in film.

"I don't feel a lot of pressure but a lot of responsibility. I think things are changing with Rami Malek winning an Oscar for doing an incredible job as Freddie Mercury. There are a lot of Middle Eastern actors coming up," he told People magazine.

"I think this film is important for representation. Hopefully, if it does well in cinema, Hollywood can have confidence in the fact that you can put a Middle Eastern in a lead role or in iconic role and it will still do well."