Aladdin Movie Review
What everyone remembers, comedically speaking, is Genie, a blue whirling dervish of impressions and wisecracks as vocalized by Robin Williams in 100 percent inspiration, negligible perspiration mode. But Aladdin also features what may be the only tolerable role for Gilbert Gottfried, period: Iago, the cranky parrot sidekick of evil villain Jafar. Even Aladdin and Jasmine, while essentially bland, have likeably cynical streaks (Jasmine is disgusted by the parade of handsome princes sent to woo her, as if she's just finished watching a Disney movie marathon). These characters would have significant goodwill flogged away by a TV series and the pair of direct-to-video follow-ups that bookend it, but on its own, Aladdin is a rollicking good time. And although the contribution of Williams is immeasurable, the Disney team rises to the occasion with some terrific, fast-paced gagwork and visual mastery.
Computer animation has long since outpaced the likes of this film's stunning (in 1992) Cave of Wonders, and even the intricately detailed patterns on the startlingly lifelike flying carpet. But often forgotten as critics drool over the latest all-CGI feature is that animation is, foremost, about movement--not necessarily realism. When Aladdin and his pet monkey Abu zip through a cave of flowing lava on that carpet, we're no longer witnessing cutting-edge technology; it's now just a beautifully animated, gripping action sequence. The Genie's shape-shifting impersonations of celebrities are broadly drawn, like Hirschfeld caricatures -- and they look great. Like Raiders of the Lost Ark, the film's style and energy will outlast more technically advanced imitators.
It's possible that Aladdin, like Raiders, Star Wars, and other wildly entertaining and popular movies, has inadvertently done some damage to the genre it transcends. So many American features now visibly strive for that perfect blend of, well, everything: The noble but scrappy hero, the animal sidekicks, the (often forced) pop culture references "for the parents," the breezy tone.
Disney formulas were in place long before Aladdin, but this was the film that showed just how much money could be made by a cartoon that appeals to everyone. It was outdone financially by The Lion King a few years later, but Aladdin is the film most later Disney movies tend to resemble, especially Hercules, Tarzan, Atlantis, and, most successfully, The Emperor's New Groove.
Disney's output in the past decade-plus has hardly been the black hole some seem to describe. (Have any of the detractors actually watched, say, Cinderella lately? Not a pretty sight.) But you sometimes get the feeling that Disney executives have been herding a lot of talented animators, writers, and directors into Aladdin's shadow.
Now on DVD, the film includes a full two discs of goodies, including music videos by today's artists (Simpson, Lachey, Aiken, yes!), deleted songs and storyboarded scenes, and lots of games for the kids.