Song of the Day #3,993: ‘Speechless’ – Naomi Scott

I expected to really dislike Aladdin, director Guy Ritchie’s remake of the 1992 Disney animated classic. Advance word was toxic, glimpses of Will Smith’s genie had been met with the wrong kind of laughter across the web, and the Rotten Tomatoes score settled in at a discouraging 56%.

On the other hand, the film opened to a surprising $113 million over Memorial Day weekend and enjoys a 94% Audience score in contrast to its rotten tomato. So the movie is reaching fans, critics be damned. Which doesn’t always bode well for quality, but can make for interesting viewing.

Well, put me with Team Audience in this case. I had a great time at Aladdin. As these Disney remakes go, I’d rank it below Cinderella and The Jungle Book but a little higher than Beauty and the Beast. It does an admirable job of recreating the spirit of the original while updating certain elements for modern audiences (it still doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, but Jasmine has a much better arc and her own song — and she doesn’t spend any time as a G-rated sex slave this time around).

The chief complaint about these films is that they have little reason to exist aside from making Disney boatloads of money. And I totally see that point. The movies would be more interesting if the filmmakers brought a new perspective to the material. For that reason, I’m excited to see Niki Caro’s take on Mulan, which is said to be darker than the original (and a non-musical to boot).

Ritchie, on the other hand, is content to recreate the original film, often line for line and shot for shot. It makes for a nifty nostalgic trip but it also makes this film something akin to bonus material on a DVD release of the 1992 film. That said, I have always enjoyed the game of mentally casting real-life actors in these iconic animated roles and it’s neat to see that exercise played out with a big budget.

Will Smith does a fine job stepping into Robin Williams’ massive shoes as the Genie. He doesn’t attempt a Robin Williams impression but makes the character his own. While the original Genie was bound by Williams’ unique brand of humor (I doubt impressions of Jack Nicholson and Ed Sullivan were in the script), Smith gives his version nuances that make him more of a character and less of a stand-up routine committed to ink.

Mena Massoud channels the impish charm of the animated Aladdin, and shows some excellent comic chops in some unexpectedly hilarious scenes (I’ve never laughed so hard at a jam joke).

The true scene-stealer here, though, is Naomi Scott as Jasmine. I will confess a lifelong crush on the animated Jasmine, and Scott does the role justice. She embodies both the impossible beauty and fierce independence of the beloved Disney heroine. Her song (today’s SOTD) is a well-placed ‘Let it Go’-esque addition to the original lineup.

Ritchie’s direction is fine, though his decision to pump up the light and the color (to match the original’s bright animation, I suppose) has the effect of making Agrabah look like a new addition to Disney World rather than an actual city. You never forget these set pieces are taking place on actual sets.

One lovely exception is his staging of the film’s centerpiece scene, the magic carpet ride set to ‘A Whole New World.’ In that moment, the film approaches the romantic abandon and visual grandeur of the original.

Here comes a wave meant to wash me away
A tide that is taking me under
Swallowing sand, left with nothing to say
My voice drowned out in the thunder

But I won’t cry
And I won’t start to crumble
Whenever they try to shut me or cut me down

I won’t be silenced
You can’t keep me quiet
Won’t tremble when you try it
All I know is I won’t go speechless
‘Cause I’ll breathe when they try to suffocate me
Don’t you underestimate me
‘Cause I know that I won’t go speechless

Written in stone, every rule, every word
Centuries old and unbending
Stay in your place, better seen and not heard
Well, now that story’s ending

‘Cause I, I cannot start to crumble
So come on and try
Try to shut me and cut me down

I won’t be silenced
You can’t keep me quiet
Won’t tremble when you try it
All I know is I won’t go speechless
Speechless!

Let the storm in
I cannot be broken
No, I won’t live unspoken
‘Cause I know that I won’t go speechless

Try to lock me in this cage
I won’t just lay me down and die
I will take these broken wings
And watch me burn across the sky
Hear the echo saying

I won’t be silenced
Though you wanna see me tremble when you try it
All I know is I won’t go speechless
Speechless!
‘Cause I’ll breathe when they try to suffocate me
Don’t you underestimate me
‘Cause I know that I won’t go speechless
All I know is I won’t go speechless
Speechless!

7 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,993: ‘Speechless’ – Naomi Scott

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I too went in with low expectations and thoroughly enjoyed the film. On our drive home,

    Amy began looking through the reviews to see what the critics’ problems were with the movie. Interestingly, almost all of the bad reviews were written by white men who argued about Middle Eastern stereotypes (shame on Disney for not showing Agrabah as an evolving democratic republic without imperialist ambitions!) and an insufficiently strong feminist revamping of the ancient story (apparently notwithstanding the inclusion of Jasmine singing “Speechless”).

    My guess is that, had the EXACT same film been directed by a Muslim woman, these same white male purist apologists would have been swooning, and the RT score would be in the 90’s.

    • Clay says:

      That hasn’t been my experience in terms of the bad reviews I’ve read and listened to. I haven’t seen any of that PC policing. The predominant complaint is that the movie has little reason to exist and that the overall look of the film is bland and unimaginative. I see those points to a degree but I feel like you’re only going to like this movie if you want to like it, and too many critics go in with knives out.

      • Dana Gallup says:

        And are all those critics white men?

        • Clay says:

          Well, I think most critics are white men (which isn’t a good thing). But I don’t think white male critics are, as a rule, attacking moves directed by white men. I’ve read the opposite complaint, that these white male critics don’t fully appreciate films by women and people of color.

          • Dana Gallup says:

            Yeah, maybe, but, at least from the reviews Amy read, it seemed pretty clear that these critics were over-compensating. It’s much like when white folks claim that something is racist when no one or very few minorities are offended or saying anything. It would be interesting to know how the relatively few non-white and/or women critics felt about the movie and whether any of them felt it was racist to r sexist.

          • Clay says:

            I haven’t found many reviews, by white men or otherwise, that go after the film for racism. Plenty talk about the criticisms of the original film on that front, and the changes in the new film to address those problems. I do see a lot of dislike for Guy Ritchie, but mostly for his staging and camerawork. Will Smith seems to be the most polarizing aspect of the film, with some critics calling him the best part and others calling him the worst.

  2. The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

    When I left the theater after watching this piece of art, my life had forever be changed. To all those cynics who feel this is just a massive cash grab on Disney’s part, I’m sorry that your heart is so cold and closed off from wonder that even the most beautiful scene in all of cinema (and a real tear jerker) “A Whole New World” couldn’t thaw it. Yes, I cried several times throughout this film, mostly tears of joy with a couple exceptions with profound feminist scenes with Jasmine and this very song and Will Smith breaking free from his chains of being a genie. This movie was perfect. I’m sure that most people could find issue with it as they could find issue with literally anything. For my money I can’t think of a single more enjoyable experience that I’ve had watching a movie.

    When I went in to watch the movie a second time with my Aunt Diana, I was concerned that perhaps upon second viewing I wouldn’t be as infatuated. BOY, WAS I WRONG. This movie holds up even better and I find myself unable to justify watching any other film when this one is still in theaters.

    As for today’s song, I felt it was a great addition to the film. In fact, I feel Jasmine’s a whole arc was a poignant and timely change from the original movie and I think this movie actually does a great job of honoring the original movie with providing fresh new decisions. I cried at the reprise of this song (which interestingly was the longer version, it’s almost teased at the beginning of the movie) and I feel that it fit right in with the rest of the Disney classics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.