Aladdin Revisited

21 Jul 2017

With all this talk of Guy Ritchie's live action version of Disney's Aladdin, thought I'd re-visit the original..

 

Prd. & Dir. John Musker, Ron Clements. Composer Alan Menken, Lyrics Howard Ashman, Tim Rice

St. Scott Weinger (Aladdin), Robin Williams (Genie), Linda Larkin (Jasmine), Jonathan Freeman (Jafar), Frank Welker (Abu/Narrator), Gilbert Gottfried (Iago), Douglas Seale (Sultan), Lea Salonga (Singing Jasmine)

Rel. 1992. Run. 90m.

 

Loosely based on one of the Tales of the Arabian Nights, Aladdin is a basic fairy-tale, with a hint of Oprah Winfrey psychobabble about "being true to yourself" thrown in for good measure. 

 

Set in the Imperial City of Agrabah, somewhere in the region of Generic Middle East, the sultan demands that his daughter, Jasmine, chose a husband within three days or else!  Unhappy with her lot (palace, jewels, pet tiger) she runs away from home and straight into the arms of 'street-rat' Aladdin and his monkey, Abu.  

 

Meanwhile, the evil Vizier, Jafar, has plans of his own.  You know, the usual villainous one of ruling the world.  All he needs is Aladdin to get him a certain magic lamp.  The palace guards hunt the young couple down and Aladdin is thrown in jail.  A quick hop, skip and plot twist later and Aladdin is polishing a dirty old lamp and the Vizier is fuming at Iago's incompetence at losing the said lamp.  

 

Surprise, surprise, the lamp Aladdin holds is no ordinary illumination, but one which houses a Genie with the power to grant  three magic wishes.  Aladdin becomes a prince and woos the princess.  The Vizier, puts the Sultan under his spell, banishes Aladdin to the bottom of the sea, steals Aladdin's lamp and seduces the princess.  Luckily for the world, his own greed, and Aladdin's ingenuity ultimately brings him down.  By the time the (lengthy) credits role, Aladdin and Jasmine are married, the genie is set free, and Jafar is in the lamp.

 

As is often the case with Disney animation, Aladdin and Jasmine (the hero and heroine) do not make for dynamic leads and are overshadowed by the great supporting cast. The evil English-accented Jafar, the chattering monkey, Abu, the plump child-like Sultan, the angry parrot, Iago and even the flying carpet manage to outclass the insipid Aladdin and Jasmine.

 

For the first half-hour, Aladdin is an average adventure cartoon, until the genie (voiced by Robin Williams and animated by Eric Goldberg ) explodes on to the screen. As with Williams' Good Morning Vietnam, he is allowed to ad-lib, and when he lets rip the film moves into another gear altogether and the film (and the audience) is taken into a different direction.

 

Aladdin is a film that requires a second viewing, not for the main plot, but for the background and to catch all the jokes you missed the first time round. The standard fairytale is given a new lease of life through Williams' characterisation of the genie.  Williams' improvisation allows for some startling and innovative animation sequences, which regenerate this rather average cartoon.

 

 

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