I watched Aladdin for the first time in a couple years last week. I’ve always ranked this movie as the least of Disney’s biggest four films from the late ’80s and early ’90s (this, Beauty, Lion King, and Mermaid). But now I’m not convinced that it’s any less enjoyable than Mermaid or The Lion King.
Aladdin is a story about two teenagers who desperately want to escape their limiting lives.They fall for each other in part because they have obvious chemistry (and are attractive and single), and in part because each sees freedom in the other. Aladdin has no walls; he can go where he pleases, but he has to scramble to survive each day. Jasmine has unlimited wealth and comfort and leisure, but no freedom to do what she wants. Both have what the other thinks they want.
And all of that comes before we meet The Genie voiced by Robin Williams, my pick for Disney’s greatest character. He’s hilariously voiced and imaginatively animated, but has his own depth: He’s a prisoner, just like Aladdin and Jasmine.
Throw in my favorite Disney song (“A Whole New World”) and some of Disney’s most entertaining sidekicks (Iago, Abu), and you have an animated masterpiece. The movie’s been a bit devalued in recent years thanks to its reliance on slapstick and pop culture references. AFI left it off their list of the ten best animated movies, but it would likely place in my own top ten animated movies.
Dan’s Favorite Moment: Jasmine turns “A Whole New World” into a duet
Not to get ahead of myself, but Aladdin is Shrek done correctly. In fact, its success probably ushered in the age of animation where famous actors are hired to do the voices. Aladdin’s influence on the animation landscape can be seen through the entire DreamWorks arsenal, which also relies more heavily on pop-culture references. While I don’t particularly like the direction Aladdin pushed animation, watching Robin William’s performance makes it understandable. Unbounded by the laws of reality, he brings the Genie to life, stealing practically every scene he’s in with his animated personality.
But as Dan points out, even the Genie is given depth, giving Aladdin a sense it was deeply cared for. I just think Disney loosened up a bit this time around. Aladdin has lost favor with most critics who now largely view Aladdin behind The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King, and I think this is because Aladdin simply doesn’t have the timeless feeling of a genuine masterpiece. Aladdin misses my top ten list, but barely.
Verdict: Properly Rated
Kevin’s Favorite Moment: Aladdin’s “One Jump Ahead” reprise
Final Grade: A- (92%)—a stunning and exhilarating magic carpet ride.
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