Aladdin

Aladdin (1992): United States – directed by Ron Clements and John Musker

Rated G by the MPAA – contains a few harem girls

It’s been years since I’ve seen Aladdin, meaning that I’ve never had a chance to watch it with adult eyes.  Watching it again it’s clear that it belongs up there with some of Disney’s recent classics.

The story is familiar, since it’s a retelling of an old folktale and has been made into films many times before.  There is our hero, a street urchin named Aladdin (voiced by Scott Weinger) and his pet monkey Abu.  There’s the gorgeous princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin), who, though she has the world, feels trapped in her palace.  Add in her witless father, the Sultan, an evil grand vizier, Jafar, and a powerful genie and that about rounds out the cast.

Jafar, being the villain, ensures that we have a story.  He plots to gain a magic lamp from a Cave of Wonder hidden in the desert sands, but needs a certain street urchin to obtain it.  Of course, his initial plan fails, leaving the lamp in the hands of Aladdin.

Rubbing the lamp he discovers it contains a genie.  His name is Genie and he is voiced by Robin Williams in one of the most memorable Disney roles of all time.   The genie can grant Aladdin any three wishes, except the only thing he truly desires: the heart of Jasmine.  The best Genie can do is make Aladdin a prince so that he actually has a shot at winning the princess’ heart.

This entails lying to the princess long enough to make her fall in love.  Complicating matters are Jafar’s new schemes to overthrow the Sultan and be ruler of the land, Genie’s desire to be set free and Aladdin’s constant attempts to maintain his persona.  Throw in several songs, some of which are among Disney’s greatest and other which are merely very good, and you’ve got quite a movie.

There are a couple things that separate Aladdin from some of the other Disney films.  The first is the frenetic energy that Robin Williams bring to Genie.  Apparently quite a bit of his dialogue was improvised, something that doesn’t often happen in animation.  The same chaos and rapid-fire wit Williams portrays in his live action films and stand-up routines manages to assert itself here, which is amazing.

Another great asset of the film is Jafar.  He is pure evil, desiring nothing but absolute power.  He is sinister and calculating, and even has a temperamental sidekick in his parrot Iago (voice of Gilbert Gottfried).  Some of the images of him finally obtaining great power are quite astonishing and might be frightening to some kids.

The whole film, in fact, looks amazing.  Some CGI backgrounds were used, for the second time in Disney’s history after Beauty and the Beast (reviewed here.)  The entire production is almost flawless, allowing Aladdin to take its place in the upper echelon of modern Disney classics alongside Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King (reviewed here.)  I enjoyed it immensely, perhaps partially because I was able to catch more of Genie’s adult-oriented jokes.  If you haven’t seen Aladdin in a few years rest assured that it is certainly worth revisiting.

three-and-a-half-stars

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