I have a serious love/hate relationship with this movie. It’s really bad. REALLY bad. I absolutely hate certain aspects of this movie. Others I simply adore. Just be forewarned. This is going to be interesting.
Of course I saw this movie in theaters. I think after how amazing Beauty and the Beast was, EVERYONE saw this movie in theaters. They wanted to see if Disney could produce another amazing movie. How did they do? Let’s find out:
Our movie opens with a street vendor trying to sell us (yes us, the audience – oh boy fourth wall..) a few things before pulling out a lamp and claiming it once changed the course of a young man’s life. He then starts to tell us the story. It goes something like this:
In the desert there exists a magical cave, called the Cave of Wonders (done in CGI, actually looks pretty good). We meet our Villain first, a man named Jafar. For whatever reason, Jafar really wants to get into this cave, but the cave tells him only one can enter. After he does some magic, it turns out it’s this man named Aladdin, our main character. He’s a man who lives on the streets, resorting to stealing what he can to survive. Also in our story is Jasmine, the princess of the Kingdom who’s being forced to marry by her father the Sultan. Upset with him, Jasmine runs off and runs into Aladdin in the market. He helps her out of trouble and shows her around before he’s caught by Jafar’s men (Jafar is the royal vizier, btw). Jafar then poses as an old man and takes Aladdin to the cave of Wonders, where he enters and is told to touch nothing but the lamp (which is good, cause that’s what Jafar wanted). Well something else is touched, Aladdin ends up stuck in the cave, and we figure out that this lamp he was sent to retrieve is really a genie lamp.
Aladdin suddenly has three wishes. He wants to be able to be with Jasmine, so he has the Genie make him a prince. They parade into Agrabah and after a bit, Jasmine is nice to him and figures out that he is the boy she met in the market place, who she thought was dead. Aladdin (now Ali) lies and tells her she’s really a prince, and he was just pretending like she was to escape the pressure. Jasmine has finally picked a suitor, but Jafar happens to see the lamp and realizes who Ali really is. there’s some stuff that goes down, Jafar ends up with the lamp and all hell breaks loose as he makes himself sultan and a powerful sorcerer. He shows them all that Ali is really Aladdin, a no good street rat worth nothing. He attempts to kill him (for the 4th or 5th time) to no avail. Aladdin comes back, outsmarts Jafar, frees the Genie with his last wish, and everyone lives happily ever after.
….. I don’t really know where to start. I guess I’ll say that for the first 35 minutes, this movie is good. Great even. We have some great characters shaping up, some great music, and an actual love story with two parties involved that actually seem interesting. Then… Then this comes:
This is the biggest problems I have with this movie. I want to make myself explicitly clear: It’s not like I dislike the Genie as a character. In the moments where he’s serious, it’s good. I actually really enjoy the relationship he and Aladdin end up having. But… but… oh God.
Here’s what it is: This was the first animated Disney movie to put in pop culture references. It is not their last. It’s not that I despise pop culture references. If done right, they can actually add to a movie in a way that makes the audience connect with the move on a personal level. They go “oh look, isn’t that hilarious and funny because we do that too!” Sometimes it dates the movie, sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on the reference. If done right, people 10 years from now will still understand the reference and still think it’s funny.
Aladdin is everything that is wrong with pop culture references, in my mind. The Genie is rank with so many pop culture references that you can’t breathe without one popping in. People have since come up with a theory that the entire movie is actually set in a apocalyptic wasteland. That’s how people rationalize how Genie knows all this stuff. Because otherwise, it’s just THERE. He does all this wacky stuff, and people just deal with it like it’s normal. Aladdin doesn’t sit there and question why he’s talking like he is or using inventions that won’t be made for thousands of years. This is like two different movies. We have the serious (comparatively) love story with Aladdin, Jasmine, Jafar, etc. Then we have this strange slapstick overridden, crazy, joke-filled insanity that is the Genie.
I’ll be the first to admit that I laughed at the Genie as a kid. I didn’t get half of his references, but I laughed. That’s why the Genie is there; he’s for the kids. But Disney’s already proven that you don’t have to be all sorts of stilly stupid to make kids laugh and enjoy their movies. What, did they think that the rest of the movie they had was boring so they decided to bring in Robin Williams and tell him “do whatever”? Because the rest of the movie is definitely not boring. I never thought that, even as a 7 year old.
The Genie is way too over the top. The plethora pop culture references do NOT work in this movie, and as a result this movie doesn’t hold up at all. It’s the first Disney movie I’ve reviewed that actually seems dated. The early 90s was when we had crazy humorous family movies (The Mask anyone? Jim Carrey in general? Robin Williams in general?). This one sticks out. That’s what I hate about this movie. It’s not timeless.
Again. It’s not that I dislike the Genie character. He’s actually a good, fully fleshed out character. He has wants and dreams, and has the affinity to bond with people. He can be serious, and when he is (or when he’s being contained a bit) he’s actually quite enjoyable. And again. I love the relationship he and Aladdin get. It’s actually one of the best things about the movie. I just…. ugh.
Let’s talk about something else.
How about Aladdin? He’s a pretty good character. He has the dream of every person in Agrabah – to live in the palace. He resorts to stealing but has a good heart. He’s generous and kind. He’s brave. He’s also ashamed of who he really is. He thinks Jasmine won’t understand or won’t still feel the same way if she found out he wasn’t a prince. This is a serious flaw that he spends the entire movie getting over. Even then, it’s Jafar that outs him. I actually really enjoy the character of Aladdin, even if he is sort of “blah.” I think that’s because at its heart, this really is a romantic movie. It’s a bit of a change of pace for Disney, especially having a guy be the one falling so hard and trying like crazy to get the girl. It’s nice.
Jasmine, honestly, I could take or leave. Sure she has personality. She’s stubborn and speaks her mind and wants nothing more than to be free to make her own choices. But other than that? She’s just kinda… there. She does seem very smart, but never comes up with her own plans. She’s kinda rough around the edges and resents being who she is. At least till the end. I know this is before Disney heroines were “do it yourself” people, but still. She escaped the palace! Obviously she can do a lot! Her father the Sultan is of the “short & squat” Disney father variety, is super clueless, and almost like a large child. At the same time, he loves his daughter. He’s a rule follower. There’s not really much to say about him. He’s entertaining, and the right kind of humor for this movie.
Jafar is a good villain as well. His character design is slimy and evil-looking, and his voice fits him well. He’s obsessed with power (as it seems most villains are) and wants to be sultan. He attempts anything to get into power, even mentioning that he should marry Jasmine if no suitor can be found. He is very smart (arguably the smartest person in the entire movie), and has some pretty good plans up his sleeves. He’s not afraid to kill (which is pretty scary), but at the same time, this villain is also very…. funny. I can’t really describe it. Jafar to me has just always been funny and entertaining and a bit over the top. Maybe it’s just watching him with the Genie. They’re so opposite but he takes it all in stride. He’s an odd villain for an odd movie, but he fits in well.
This movie is FULL of sidekicks. It’s almost like when they were deciding to make this movie, someone raised their hand and went “Let’s give everyone in this movie an animal sidekick!” We have Abu, Aladdin’s monkey sidekick. He has broken chirping/sometimes words, and is the right type of humor for this movie. Iago, Jafar’s parrot sidekick, (voiced by Gilbert Gottfried) is one of the better villain sidekicks. He’s evil, smart and maniacal just like Jafar is. They have a playful relationship that suggests almost mutual trust and respect (Iago is strangely my favorite character in this movie). Then there’s Rajah, Jasmine’s tiger sidekick. He’s kinda pointless. I’ll be honest.
Then there’s the flying carpet. Whoever had the idea to add this guy into the movie and have him be a full blown character was all shades of brilliant. This thing has no head, eyes, or mouth, but somehow conveys emotion better than a lot of characters and actors. Plus he gets Aladdin out of trouble more than a few times, and comes in handy for easy transportation.
The songs in this movie are very hit and miss for me. I adore “A Whole New World” (although they flew from the middle east to Greece to China REALLY quickly…), as well as “One Jump.” “Friend like me” is catchy but again, I have issues with the Genie, and watch it now it’s just a whole lot of craziness that’s ridiculous. “Prince Ali” is easier to stomach for me (I have this song in French… don’t ask why). What we’re missing from this movie is a really good Villain song. Jafar just gets a reprise. But then again I guess he wouldn’t want to sing a song…
At its core, Aladdin has a lot of heart. It has good characters and believable relationships between said characters (better than some other movies). It has a good message to just be yourself and don’t be ashamed of it, and that anyone can spark change. It has all these great things going on for it. It has subtle humor and jokes that I didn’t even get when I was a kid. But then… then it just gets ridiculous and insane. UGH!
Ok… in the defense of the people who wrote the Genie for a second: After this movie, a group of animators would leave Disney Animation and head off to form another animation studio called Dreamworks. Yeah. Suddenly it all makes so much sense. Because of course the people who animated the Genie were the one’s who would end up doing Shrek.
One more random thing. Remember this part:
It’s the part where Aladdin’s upset and the Genie comes in and “reads” the script and says that this is the part where you free the Genie. Well, have you ever noticed that IF ALADDIN HAD FREED THE GENIE WHEN HE WAS “SUPPOSED” TO, THE MOVIE WOULD BE OVER. Think about it. Jafar would have never gotten the lamp. Although Aladdin’s secret would have come out eventually, they probably would have gotten married before anyone was the wiser. Now I know this movie is about being yourself, but yeah. Next time follow the script!!
As I said, I have a major love/hate relationship with this movie. In the end, it really is more love than hate, though. It has its flaws, but this movie is a good one. And your kids will probably love the Genie, even if you despise him.
I give Aladdin* (1992) a 3.3 out of 5.
Up Next: The Return of Jafar (1994).**
*This movie is now a musical on Broadway. I fear for everyone who goes to see it. What, oh what, Disney? Are you that strapped for cash that you have to delve to this thing for Musicals? I watched “Friend like me” at the Tonys, and it was…. yeah. It was bad.
**I own 3 Disney Sequels. Yes I know they’re not technically Canon. Yes I know they’re put out by a different studio, but I have no where else to put them if not with their parent movie.