While on vacation we decided to check out some of the Disney
movies that we missed at the theaters. The top on our list was the
1992 picture ALADDIN, Disney's loose retelling of the story of Aladdin
and his magic lamp.
ALADDIN starts slowly and aimlessly as if it is killing time
before the big event. In a movie filled with Academy Award winning
music (Alan Menken) but mediocre songs (Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim
Rice), a couple of the most forgettable songs occur in the beginning.
The film has two distinct parts -- let's call them BG and AG --
before the Genie, played with tremendous comedic gusto by Robin
Williams, appears and after.
In BG, we are introduced to the beautiful princess Jasmine (voice
by Linda Larkin), who has never left the palace walls. (The rich
always have it rough in the movies.) Her father, the Sultan (voice by
Douglas Seale), reminds her that she must marry a prince before she
turns 21, and there are only 3 days left.
Jafar (voice by Jonathan Freeman), the Sultan's "most trusted
advisor," and his smart mouthed bird Iago (voice by Gilbert Gottfried
but you'll swear it is Danny DeVito) hang around the palace looking
sinister. Jafar wants to marry the princess as a way to abscond with
all of the Sultan's riches.
As soon as you hear that Jasmine has never left the palace, you
know she will, and the inevitable scene occurs in short order. While
outside the confines of the palace, she meets our hero Aladdin (voice
by Scott Weinger) and his cute monkey Abu (voice by Frank Welker).
Aladdin falls immediately and desperately in love with her.
Aladdin ends up with the magic lamp and accidentally summons the
Genie (voice by -- drum roll -- Robin Williams). After half an hour,
BG is finally over, and we enter the dramatically more interesting AG
The Genie explains the rules about Aladdin's three wishes to him,
including the one that he cannot ask the Genie to make anyone fall in
love. At the end of his witty, quasi-legal oral contract, the Genie
informs him that there are, "three wishes - no substitutes, exchanges,
During AG, the show bursts with all of the energy it lacked in BG.
Williams does his shtick as only he can. The Disney animators follow
along creating images of equal intensity to his routine, right down to
a neon sign that says "applause" at the end of one of his numbers. One
could make a cogent argument that this vaudeville routine has no place
in a story about Aladdin, but who cares, it is extremely funny. And
the first rule of a comedy, especially a cartoon, is that, if it is
funny, go with it and don't worry too much about logic. Williams, for
the many adults in the audience, even includes some fun impersonations
of other actors like Jack Nicholson. Again, it doesn't make any sense,
but it's funny.
Disney animators show off their talents in many ways. The regal
movie uses a palette of colors worthy of the Arabian Nights. Royal
blues and rich crimsons are outlined in gold. Watch especially how
well the animators can imbue human life and motion into animals and
normally inanimate objects. The magic carpet is a perfect example.
They give a real personality to what otherwise looks like just a high
quality throw rug.
Almost as a byproduct, the story teaches some nice moral lessons,
but the script by Ron Clements, Ted Elliott, John Musker, and Terry
Rossio puts all of its creativity into the humor. The result is a
satisfying film that will keep the whole family laughing.
ALADDIN runs 1:30 with the last hour being the good part. It is
rated G and would be fine for all ages with the possible exception of a
brief snake scene. My son Jeffrey, age 8, thought the show was "very
good," but when pressed for a comparison with one of his favorite
Disney films, THE LION KING, he said he liked THE LION KING better, and
I agree. I recommend ALADDIN to you and give it ***.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes