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Aladdin Reviews

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Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

September 27, 2013
There's an old saying in sport that you're only as good as the last game you played. After the success of Beauty and the Beast, the Disney Renaissance would seem to have been cemented - and in terms of public consciousness, this may be true. But that doesn't mean that everything Disney put out in the aftermath deserves such a glowing reputation. While Aladdin is by no means a bad film, it isn't quite as good as memory tells us.

When I reviewed Sleeping Beauty, I praised the film as an example of 'pantomime done right'. In other words, the film-makers understood the conventions of pantomime and their relationship to fairy tales, embracing the conventions of these genres to tell their story in the best possible manner. Like Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella before it, Aladdin is at its heart a pantomime, possessing a plot with familiar, much-loved motions, a cheery, family-friendly moral, and a cast of stock characters, some from Disney convention, others from deeper within the genre's history.

Aladdin is our archetypal romantic hero, someone who isn't that bright and doesn't really do anything to spur the plot on: instead, he spends his time reacting to things that are thrust upon him, whether it's his love at first sight with Jasmine or his discovery of the Genie in the cave. Jasmine is a princess with a well-meaning father who urgently wants her to marry - but she wants to marry for love, while he doesn't particularly mind. As with Sleeping Beauty, the main conflict of the story is between the villain and the heroes' sidekicks: in this case Jafar wants to be Sultan and the Genie works through Aladdin so the latter can marry Jasmine.

Like any good pantomime, Aladdin has moments of genuine darkness or creepiness which punctuate an often frothy story. Some of the darker moments are really well-rendered: the collapse of the Cave of Wonders, with Aladdin flying the magic carpet, is a really tense little set-piece. Likewise Jafar's transformations are well-paced and very well-drawn, with the snake transformation reflecting the climax of the Bumble Boogie segment of Melody Time. The story wouldn't have been improved by the whole thing being this dark, but these moments do add welcome variety to what is otherwise a well-worn story.

Even if it had nothing else going for it, Aladdin does succeed in taking these archetypal characters and making them memorable. Jafar and Iago are good, memorable villains with a believable motivation and a memorable method of carrying out their evil schemes. While Jafar is a classic pantomime villain, meant to be both scary and ridiculous, Iago is more straight-up comic relief, and it really works. Jasmine is one of the better Disney princesses: she's no Belle, and she does spend a lot of her time complaining, but she is more independent and less self-pitying than Ariel or Cinderella.

But by far the most memorable character, for reasons both good and bad, is the Genie as played by Robin Williams. This is ironic considering that Williams took the role on the conditions that he wouldn't be the main focus of the promotion: keen to give Toys an equal chance at the box office, he was paid SAG scale (relatively little) for his voice work and his contract stipulated that the character's image would not take up more than 25% of any advertising. But Jeffrey Katzenberg, the film's executive producer, went back on his word and made Williams' appearance one of the major selling points. As a result Williams refused to return for the straight-to-video sequel The Return of Jafar, being replaced by Dan Castelleneta from The Simpsons.

The role of the Genie in Aladdin is significant for several reasons. It was a watershed for mainstream animation, in that it ushered in a practice of having celebrities or famous comedians voicing a fast-talking sidekick for the lead. It's also one of the most divisive aspects of the film: since the animators worked to Williams' improvisations rather than have him read from a script, several critics saw his performance as unchecked narcissistic indulgence. But most importantly, whether you agree with this assessment or not, Williams' performances leads us on to the biggest problem with the film.

I spoke in my reviews of Beauty and the Beast and The Rescuers Down Under about Disney actively celebrating its past. In my reviews of later Disney films, such as Tarzan, I also spoke of how this celebration was eventually consolidated into a series of overly rigid conventions, eventually resulting in such miserable dreck as Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Put simply, there's a very fine line between celebrating your past and shoving it in your audience's faces with a smug grin on your face, and Aladdin crosses this line. You could go to so far to say that in this film are the first few traces of the cynicism that would later engulf the Renaissance.

Part of the problem is that Williams keeps doing jokes that only adults will get; without wishing to appear insulting, I suspect there are few young children out there who would recognise Ed Sullivan, Peter Lorre, Rodney Dangerfield or Jack Nicholson. But equally problematic are the obvious references to Disney's own back catalogue. It's one thing to have elephants pop up and merge with one another a la Dumbo; it's quite another to have obvious cameos from Pinocchio and Sebastian from The Little Mermaid. These things smack of someone trying to flog their other products in the midst of telling you a story, one of the few things in which Katzenberg truly excels.

What makes this so frustrating on a narrative level is that Aladdin would have worked just as well without all the blatant references and pop culture jokes. If directors Ron Clements and John Musker had put their foot down, or been allowed to play it straight, the film would have had a greater sense of innocence about it which would have aided both the fairy tale feel and the pace of the storytelling. As it is, whole sections of the film are strung out and dragged down by Disney being just a little bit smug about its own success.

There are other problems besides this, which relate to the visuals of the film. There has been a great deal of speculation about the relationship between Aladdin and The Thief and the Cobbler, Richard Williams' unfinished masterpiece which saw the light of day in 1993 in a poorly-edited and retooled version by Miramax. Since Disney completed Aladdin before the Miramax cut existed, it's hard to know how much one work may have borrowed from the other. You could certain argue that the works have similarities, both in their character composition and their designs - for instance, Jafar's resemblance to the villainous Zig-Zag.

More substantial (and problematic) is the cultural depiction of the Middle East. This is a problem that many pantomime versions of Aladdin or Ali Baba face, and being a pantomime we know from the start that historical fidelity is not high on the agenda. But the film does drift into insensitive territory at times, making stereotypical jokes about cutting off people's hands and, Jasmine aside, coming up short in its depiction of women. We could also cry racism on the voice casting: all the heroes are given American accents and are whiter in complexion, while the disposable bad guys have cod Arabic accents and darker skin.

Even with all these problems, however, it is still just about possible to enjoy Aladdin as a breezy pantomime musical. The music is much more brash than Beauty and the Beast, trading the gentle grace of 'Beauty and the Beast' for the quick-fire wordplay of 'Friend Like Me'. This song is the stand-out, with great choreography which plays to Williams' vocal style and fittingly disorientates the hero. 'Prince Ali isn't quite as memorable but is still very pleasant, and even the overplayed 'A Whole New World' since has a childlike quality to it. Aladdin's singing voice isn't all that great, but in general the cast (both sung and spoken) is very strong.

Aladdin is an enjoyable but problematic entry into the Disney canon, which raises questions about the Renaissance as much as it commercially underpins it. It has too many issues, whether visual or narrative, to be given a completely clean bill of health, but as a piece of pantomime storytelling it makes up for it with good humour and strong performances. While it's definitely a comedown from Beauty and the Beast, you won't be wishing it would disappear any time soon.

Super Reviewer

September 25, 2010
It's not particularly one of disney's best feature films, but all of it's heart is in the right place and the voice acting is very fun to view (hear). The story of "Aladdin" is simple, albait almost too simple, but for kids, it couldn't be any more perfect. It teaches how second chances at anything are definitely needed in life, but we don't always get them. I highly enjoyed my viewing of this film, but it is strictly a kids film. It needs to be a little longer and add a few more story arches. "Aladdin" is very very fun!
Matthew Samuel M

Super Reviewer

November 26, 2012
It's fun to watch, but Aladdin comes off a bit too silly for any real drama in the story to be taken seriously or to develop fully. The songs, except for the beautiful "A Whole New World" are fittingly big and bold, yet are easily forgotten.
Samuel Riley
Samuel Riley

Super Reviewer

July 5, 2012
I have created a theory that most supporting characters in Disney films are more recognised than the protagonists. 'Alice in Wondeland' had the Mad Hatter, 'The Little Mermaid' had Sebastian and 'Snow White' had the seven dwarves. 'Aladdin' has the ultimate supporting character; the Genie, who is voiced by the wacky Robin Williams. At the same time, it features quite possibly the greatest Disney villian of all time; Jafar. While it won't be remembered like 'Beauty and the Beast' or 'Cinderella', its does feature lovely and iconic songs. Aladdin is one of my most favoured Disney film of all time.

Super Reviewer

November 28, 2011
Aladdin is a good animated film that will please anyone of all ages. This is a fun, comedy filled adventure that will appeal to kids as much as adults. The voice talents are great here, but Robin Williams as the Genie steals the show. He made the film much better than it is, and his performance alone made this film worth seeing. The film is good, and I did enjoy it, but man is it racist. Anyhow, back to the film. Like I said, Robin Williams made this film better, and he is simply the best actor in the film. Aladdin is good family entertainment, but is far from perfect. This is by no means Disney's best animated feature, and I think many would agree. However for what it is, Aladdin is a film that is pure fun, though not perfect is silly entertainment and with Robin William giving a great performance, this is one film that is worth seeing. The film beautifully drawn and is a good effort from Disney. A good film, but not the best, Aladdin has its flaws, but for what it is, it's an average film that has a strong performance (Williams) and good adventure. This is one film that the entire family can enjoy, and there are enough comedic bits to keep you laughing and keep you engaged in the story. This is a film that though not Disney's best, is still worth watching because in nonetheless has everything necessary to make this a good family film. The film is lots of fun, even if at times it's uneven.
Alexander D

Super Reviewer

June 14, 2011

Super Reviewer

August 10, 2011
John Musker and Ron Clements pull a genie out of a lamp and out comes the magic in Aladdin.The story may be a brief 85 minutes, but it is amusing from the first to the last minute. The picture never spends too much time on something when it never has to, in turn generating a nicely paced story.The soundtrack is a definite highlight. There are an abundance of musical numbers throughout and they are catchy and enjoyable. Aladdin really does have a memorable set of songs.The characters each have their own unique personalities and that's what makes them so likable, or unlikable as they should be. The genie is a barrel of laughs and this film wouldn't be the same without him.Scott Weinger and Linda Larkin both have suitable voices for Aladdin and Jasmine respectively. Robin Williams as the genie? Simply superb. Gilbert Gottfried does match Iago, but he can get a teensy bit annoying. Just a bit.When it comes to animations, Aladdin is an example of a successful one. "I can't believe it. I'm losin' to a rug."
Eric A

Super Reviewer

August 7, 2011
My favorite Disney movie. Simply untouchable.

Super Reviewer

July 8, 2011
If there ia something I love is comedy. When I heard that Robin Williams will be featuring the voice of the genie I though "What!?, I want to see it right now!" . And didn't disappointed. I saw it subtitled in Polanco, one of the few movie theaters that presented Aladdin in his original languaje. Amazing job! hundreds of jokes, personifications, gags, jeez! Another Disney's successful job.

Super Reviewer

June 24, 2011
A childhood favourite and a classic!
Drake T

Super Reviewer

May 19, 2011
Royal romance, colorful magic, derivative themes, childish charm, heart, great animation, remember-able characters, iconic scenes...

Quite possibly THE defining film of the words "Disney Classic".

Super Reviewer

September 6, 2010
Another fantastic Disney movie from the 90s. The animation is amazingly beautiful, I was in awe of it as a kid, the songs are fun and memorable, the story is classic yet Disney, and Williams steals the show as the genie. If you like Disney movies, you need to see this one, or if you just like good animation, I'd recommend this movie.
Conner R

Super Reviewer

January 11, 2010
I honestly don't know anyone who does or could find this to be anything but a classic. Not only does it have one of the most epically handled stories in the Disney vault, but it has such a perfectly bizarre blend of 2D and a dash of 3D animation that makes it stand out. Characters like Jafar are the epitome of evil in children's movies. Not only did he have world domination in mind, but an unstoppable maniacal laugh and facial hair. You also can't forget Robin William's deranged blue Genie that had a range of emotions that cannot be measured. Aladdin really has it all; there's not just one or two things that make it great. Practically everything is flawlessly put together.

Super Reviewer

July 31, 2009
With incredible songs and fantastic characters, this set a benchmark for other animated films. Full review later.

Super Reviewer

September 9, 2007
this certainly was the best one out of the two!
its a good lovely story with robin williams bringing his character truly to life hes very amusing making this movie that bit more special!
i dont personally think they should do sequels to classic disney movies!!
A birlliant movie!!
michael e.
michael e.

Super Reviewer

November 26, 2010
its not the best of the disney films but its not the worst

Super Reviewer

November 16, 2010
Classic man.
Richard C

Super Reviewer

July 21, 2010

Super Reviewer

July 8, 2009
Great Movie!!! It was a little late to see so far from my childhood years but I finally saw it and absolutely loved it. One of the best Disney movies ever made.

Aladdin, a street rat, is the only person who can enter the cave of wonders and retrieve a magical lamp for the dark Vizier Jafar. Aladdin becomes trapped in the cave with his sidekick, Abu, and accidentally discovers the resident of the lamp. Aladdin develops a relationship with the Genie and uses his wishes to become a prince to chase the affections of Princess Jasmine. When Jafar finally steals the lamp and gets three wishes of his own, Aladdin must rely on his intelligence to trick Jafar and save his friends and the Kingdom.
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