Originally Reviewed – 9/13/2012
Before I take a look at my latest Review My Collection installment, let’s take a trip to early nineties. Disney was the toast of the animated world with a series of films I call “The Disney Four”. In order, the big D sent The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), the subject of this review and The Lion King (1994) to theaters and each film is regarded by many to be classics (with exception of Mermaid, but that’s a conversation for another day). Aladdin was the third film in The Disney Four and while it doesn’t reach the heights of the one that came before or after, it’s a solidly entertaining piece of animation that still holds up in modern day viewings.
Framed in the setting of Arabian sultans and princess, Aladdin is the story of a young street urchin, a persnickety princess and a wisecracking genie. Aladdin and his faithful primate Abu are having a grand old time in Agrabah. Ducking guards, stealing apples and singing showtunes, life is rough but free-wheeling for the pair of pals. On the other side of the palace wall sits Princess Jasmine, a privileged yet imprisoned aristocrat who bemoans her station in life, especially the parade of potential husbands who come a-courting. According to law, she has to marry a prince but none of them spark the flame of independence that’s smoldering inside her. Further complicating matters is the nefarious, pencil mustached advisor Jafar who looks to gain political advantage from Jasmine’s indecision. How you ask? An ordinary lamp containing the cartoon embodiment of Robin Williams.
From the outset, everything seems in place for an early nineties Disney movie. Toe tapping tunes? Check. An off center setting that leaves plenty of room for creative license? Check. A romance that supports the underlying theme of acceptance despite cultural and sociological differences? Double check. Aladdin is an easily likeable protagonist, his monkey buddy provides some physical comedy and the villain, alongside the voice of Gilbert Godfrey as his parrot sidekick Iago, is evil enough to give the feature some genuine tension. The pieces all work to provide a very enjoyable if inoffensive joyride through the Arabian nights.
The real star of the film is Robin Williams as the free wheeling Genie. While I’m not the biggest fan of the comedian, he’s a fine actor and lifts the film with some genuine laughs. Most of the characters in Aladdin can be kindly described as vanilla but Williams, with a nice combination of improv and good writing, gives the movie a jolt of energy. Unfortunately, Disney was still in that strange period where female protagonists were still stuck in the castle tower. This is prevalent here with Jasmine, a vapid and almost annoying character who whines her way through the feature. If it weren’t for the great music and the likeability of Aladdin balancing out the privileged princess, the twosome may have sunk the entire feature.
Luckily, this not the case. While not on the level of either Beauty and the Beast or the best film in the foursome, The Lion King, Aladdin satisfies its intended audience with great animation, exciting action and the requisite love story Disney fans crave. Mostly by the numbers in terms of storytelling and characters, the over the top Genie gives the feature a distinct flavor that stills holds up today. A fun filled adventure for all ages.
Score – 80%