Posts Tagged ‘Aladdin’


Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Zuraidah Alman about movies in theatres and on VOD to watch this weekend including the Gillian Jacobs college comedy “I Used to Go Here,” the Mick Jagger thriller “The Burnt Orange Heresy” and the biodoc “Howard: The Howard Ashman Story.”

Watch the whole thing HERE! (Starts at 18:59)


Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with guest host Matt Harris to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the college comedy “I Used to Go Here” starring Gillian Jacobs, the psychological thriller “She Dies Tomorrow,” the crime drama “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” the kid’s fantasy “The Secret Garden” and the biodoc “Howard: The Howard Ashman Story.”

Listen to the whole thing HERE!


Howard Ashman may not be a household name but the songs he wrote have certainly played in your home. A new documentary on Disney+ about the lyricist behind Disney animated classics like “Aladdin,” “Beauty and The Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” gives insight into the life of an artist whose life was cut short at 39 years.

Using a combination of archival footage, new interviews with the people who knew him best and lots of music, “Howard: The Howard Ashman Story” tells the story of a young boy who let his imagination run wild, creating dioramas with plastic figures and toys, doing shows in his backyard, complete with costumes and props when most kids were still making mud pies. Of a kid who could imitate any actor from any play he ever saw and who became a storyteller, writing musicals while still a teenager.

After college he struggled in NYC before starting his own theatre with a group of like-minded creatives in 1977 called the WPA. It was at this hole-in-the-wall theatre above a seedy donut shop off-off-off Broadway, that he found his calling. While working on a 1979 musical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s “God Bless You, Mrs. Rosewater,” he discovered his remarkable ability to write lyrics that cut to the heart and soul of whatever story he was telling.

When “God Bless You, Mrs. Rosewater” failed to translate to the Great White Way in a splashy Broadway production he decided to create something with a limited cast but with an attention-grabbing gimmick at the centre. For inspiration he looked to Roger Corman’s cheesy z-grade “Little Shop of Horrors.”

That adaptation was a giant hit but his next project, “Smile,” a flashy Broadway musical about a beauty pageant in Santa Rosa, California, co-written with Marvin Hamlisch, flopped, taking the wind out of his sails.

That’s when Disney Studio Head Jeffrey Katzenberg called, offering Ashman found a new home and creative inspiration. “Animation may be the last great place to do Broadway musicals,” Ashman says in the film.

There, working with composer Alan Menken, he wrote a trio of scores for three classic films that are still beloved today.

At this point in the doc “Howard: The Howard Ashman Story” is a slickly produced biography, mainly told in Ashman’s own words, detailing the creative life of a prolific, perfectionist songwriter.

The film deepens in tone when Ashman’s HIV diagnosis is revealed during the production of “The Little Mermaid.” The day of the diagnosis he did an on-stage interview at New York City’s 92nd Street Y. When asked what his future plans are, he replies that he doesn’t have any. It is a shattering insight into the mindset of a man just handed a death sentence.

Knowing his time was limited, Ashman worked on the three Disney films at the same time, creating a trio of films that would become the bedrock of the Disney Renaissance, while keeping his illness a secret from everyone except life partner Bill Lauch. It’s a heartbreaking illustration of the shared experience of many people with AIDS who struggled to keep their condition a secret for fear of losing work or relationships.

It’s here that director Don Hahn’s decision to not feature talking head interviews becomes clear. The interviews are all done off camera, focusing the story on the subject. You can hear the emotion in the voices of Ashman’s loved ones as they discuss his last years and their words are made all the more powerful by the images of Howard that dress the screen.

“Howard: The Howard Ashman Story” is more than a nostalgic behind-the-scenes doc. It’s a touching portrait of a man, who, like so many gay men of his generation, ran out of time.

CTV NEWSCHANNEL: “Aladdin’s” Mena Massoud: “One of the only films I could relate to”

Richard speaks with the star of “Aladdin,” Toronto’s Mena Massoud about his breakthrough role.

“I grew up with it,”: he says of the original, animated ‘Aladdin.’ “It was one of the only films I could relate to as a kid. Before I even understood things subconsciously he was a character that looked like me, that I could relate to, that has similar culture. So it meant a lot to me. I have two older sisters who had it on at the house before I was even aware of what was going on.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


A weekly feature from! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Aladdin,” “Booksmart” and a doc about the life and times of a Canadian legend, “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with news anchor Marcia MacMillan have a look at the weekend’s big releases including the  live action remake of “Aladdin,” the wild and wooly “Booksmart” and a doc about the life and times of a Canadian legend, “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!



Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including Will Smith in the live action remake of “Aladdin,” the wild and wooly “Booksmart” and a doc about the life and times of a Canadian legend, “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind” with CFRA Morning Rush host Bill Carroll.

Listen to the whole thing HERE!

SOUNDCLOUD: Five minutes with Canadian “Aladdin” star Mena Massoud.

Richard Crouse interviews Mena Massoud, the Canadian star of the Disney live action remake of “Aladdin.” They talk about working with Will Smith, why he switched from neuroscience to theatre school and supporting ethnically diverse Canadian artists.

Listen to the interview HERE!

ALADDIN: 2 STARS. “does not exactly transport us to a whole new world.”

Coming hot on the heels of Disney live action reboots of classics like “Cinderella,” “Beauty and The Beast” and “The Jungle Book” comes “Aladdin,” Guy Ritchie’s reimagining of the all singing, all dancing, all powerful Genie made famous by the late, great Robin Williams.

The story begins when “street rat” and thief Aladdin (Mena Massoud) helps a beautiful woman (Naomi Scott) he believes is a handmaiden to the daughter of the Sultan of Agrabah (Navid Negahban), escape from the police after a misunderstanding in the market. After a wild chase—part musical theatre, part parkour—they spark, bonding over the vagaries of their own circumstances. She’s trapped by palace life, he by a life of poverty. “It’s kind of sad having a monkey as the only parental authority in my life,” he says of Abu, his kleptomaniac pet monkey and constant companion.

She is, of course not the handmaiden, but the Princess Jasmine, a woman who longs to take over for her father but is stymied in her ambition by tradition. The law says she cannot take the throne and must marry a prince. When one royal suitor compliments her on her beauty she says, “We have the same titles but are never described the same way,” before dismissing him.

Meanwhile back at the palace, the Sultan’s power-hungry advisor Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) also has his eye on the throne. Using hypnotism he controls the ruler, but wants more. More, in the form of a magic lamp hidden deep in the Cave of Wonders. “Once that lamp sits in my hand I will sit on the throne,” he cackles. Trouble is, everyone who ventures into the cave dies. Jafar needs someone with serious skills to get in, grab the lamp and get out. When he meets Aladdin, he uses his access to the princess to strike a deal. “Retrieve the lamp from the cave and I will make you rich enough to impress a princess.”

The perilous journey to the lamp reveals the star of the show, a magical blue Genie with the power to grant three wishes to the keeper of the lamp. There are some catches though; he can’t make anyone fall in love with him or raise the dead. He also cautions against wishing for wealth and power the very two things Jafar and Aladdin covet.

Despite all its pomp and circumstance the live action remake of the beloved animated “Aladdin” does not exactly transport us to a whole new world. Ritchie fills the screen with colour and pageantry, staging large scale Bollywood-style dance numbers and, in the case of the Genie’s signature tune “Friend Like Me,” a maximalist CGI orgy that gives Flo Ziegfeld a run for his money. Even when he is more restrained, he isn’t that restrained. The rendering of Princess Jasmine’s big solo “Speechless,” one of the new songs by the “Dear Evan Hansen” composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, plays like a Bonnie Tyler power pop video from the 1980s.

Style has never been Ritchie’s problem. His camera is always in motion, caressing the screen with acrobatic shots and tricky editing. His movies make your eyeballs dance but often at the expense of the characters who get lost in the theatricality of the presentation.

He’s in fine form in “Aladdin” although overcooked CGI overwhelms the finale in a rush of animated imagery. The characters work hard to sparkle but get lost amid the ruckus and with them gores much of the film’s heart. The ending is loud and large but fails to make an emotional impression. Sometimes less is more.

As Princess Jasmine, Scott has more to do than in the original and does so in much more modest clothing. No animated bellybuttons here. Massoud gives the social climbing Aladdin a certain impish charm in an energetic performance. More baffling is Kenzari as the monotone villain Jafar. All scowls and surly attitude, he’s the least interesting villain on Ritchie’s resume.

The screen is filled with people but, let’s face it, the character everyone is most interested in is the big blue Genie. He’s the star of the show but in many ways it’s the film’s most thankless role. Robin Williams made the Genie his own in a performance that still sparkles with life more than twenty-five years later. Smith battles against some unfortunate CGI and the memory of Williams to make the character his own. He’s part match-maker, part magic-maker and part mirth-maker. Fortunately for Ritchie Smith’s charisma elevates the performance from merely mimicking his predecessor.

“Aladdin” is not so much a remake but an up-dating for a new generation. Some of the revisions are welcome. Jasmine is a now fully rounded character and some unfortunate lyrics, like “It’s barbaric but hey, it’s home,” have been removed. Other changes don’t work as well. Can someone explain why Iago (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a comedic highlight from the 1992 film, has been reduced to a few squawks and repeated phrases?

Despite the updates and the pomp “Aladdin” feels underwhelming by the time the end credits roll. The songs frequently interrupt the flow of the story, creating a stop-and-go feel that sucks some of the film’s momentum away.