The Best of Disney: "Aladdin" Review

The Best of Disney: "Aladdin" Review

By Nick Leyland September 02, 2014 03:30PM EDT
80% Review Score: 8 / 10
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Buena Vista Pictures

Rating: G
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: Nov. 25, 1992
Directed by: Ron Clements and John Musker
Genre: Animation / Adventure / Comedy

The 1990s saw a renaissance in Walt Disney animated films. The new breed of Disney feature paired a compelling story with surprisingly catchy musical numbers to produce films that appealed to adults and children equally. After the successes of “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast,” Disney decided to retell the story of “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” from “One Thousand and One Nights.” To do so, they brought their own comic genie on board in the person of Robin Williams, and the result was truly magical.

Aladdin opens with the Grand Vizier Jafar attempting to retrieve a magical lamp from the fabled Cave of Wonders. Unfortunately for Jafar, only a “diamond in the rough” can enter the cave safely, and the thief he sends comes to an untimely end. Meanwhile, the Sultan’s daughter Jasmine stumbles across a potential candidate in the street urchin Aladdin. Aladdin successfully steals the lamp for Jafar, but when Jafar double-crosses him, he ends up trapped in the Cave of Wonders with the lamp.  When he rubs the lamp, trying to see what was so important about the thing, he unleashes the Genie, earning three wishes.

After tricking the Genie into freeing him without using up a wish, Aladdin sets the Genie to make him a prince so that he can court Jasmine. When he rides into Agrabah as “Prince Ali of Ababwa,” Jafar realizes what’s going on and sets his sights on retrieving the lamp so that he can marry Jasmine himself. In the end, the story becomes a battle of ultimate powers and a real test of Aladdin’s character as he must choose between his heart’s desire and a promise to a newfound friend.

“Aladdin” features a fantastic voice cast, with Scott Weinger as Aladdin, Jonathan Freeman as Jafar, Linda Larkin as Jasmine and Gilbert Gottfried as Jafar’s parrot, Iago. The real star of the film, however, is Robin Williams as the manic Genie of the Lamp. Originally, Williams was hesitant to take on the role, fearing conflicts with his other projects. Lead animator Eric Goldberg finally produced a short reel of the Genie performing stand-up routines using past performances by the comedian, which did the trick. Williams was delighted and took the job on the spot.

Signing Williams turned out to be the best choice the filmmakers could have made, because his performance is what elevates “Aladdin” to the status of an enduring classic. The directors gave Williams plenty of leeway in his performance, and the comic took to the role with his usual hyperactive gusto. He peppers his performance with plenty of pop culture references and impressions that may be a bit over the heads of younger viewers but are sure to delight anyone old enough to make the connections. Williams also imbues the Genie with plenty of heart, allowing viewers to truly connect with this ageless, ultra-powerful being and understand his feelings about being tied to his eternal prison.

The “Aladdin” soundtrack is one of the best-selling musical soundtracks of all time, and with very good reason. The song is peppered with a wide variety of musical styles, from Arabian-themed instrumental pieces to fast-paced musical numbers that would be at home on Broadway. The dreamy “A Whole New World” is the major theme of the film, performed by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga. However, kids are likely to be more attracted to the songs voiced by Williams himself: "Prince Ali” and the sublime “Friend Like Me.”

The animation in “Aladdin” is also top-notch. The action is fast and furious, and the animators never drop a single frame. Of particular note is the flying carpet, a magical conveyance that becomes a character in its own right through its lifelike depiction. Animators used samples of real cloth to ensure that the movement and rippling of the carpet was true to life in all of its movements. The animation of the Genie is also well suited to the actor’s performance, capturing his manic energy as he flits between transformations and magic spells willy-nilly. The animators also obviously had fun with the character of Iago, transferring many of the features and mannerisms of Gilbert Gottfried into the abrasive parrot.

In the end, there’s just a lot to love about “Aladdin.” The story is simple enough for kids, but not too simple for adults to enjoy it. The performances are all stellar, and the musical numbers are peppy enough that even those who don’t enjoy musicals can find something to love here. The film features one of the best career performances of Robin Williams, and his recent passing is a reason for fans to re-explore his best works. Anyone who hasn’t seen this film deserves to experience it for the first time, and fans who may not have made the journey to Agrabah in some time should book a return trip soon.



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