Aladdin review by Mike Long

There's no way to tell how a film is going to age. Movies that seemed cutting edge at the time of their release now seem very old and dated. When Aladdin was released in 1992, it was a huge hit, and I remember seeing in the theatre at least twice and loving it. Yet, having followed the very traditional animated films The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin came off as way too "hip", and I felt that its charm wouldn't hold up. (And many critics at the time echoed this sentiment.) But, here we are, 12 years later and Aladdin is still a magical, fun film which only has a few elements that feel dated.

Aladdin is set in an ancient middle-eastern city called Agrabah, where we meet (surprise!) Aladdin (voiced by Scott Weinger), a young boy who is a street-urchin -- he and his pet monkey, Abu (voiced by Frank Welker) live by stealing food from the market, much to the chagrin of the local guards. Their lives are difficult and Aladdin dreams of bigger things. Meanwhile, there are many dreams happening in the palace of the Sultan (voiced by Douglas Seale), who wishes to see his daughter, Princess Jasmine (voiced by Linda Larkin) married, but she turns away all suitors. Also in the palace, the evil Jafar (voiced by Jonathan Freeman), the Sutlan's Grand Vizier is attempting to find a way to enter the mystical "Cave of Wonders" in order to retrieve a legendary magic lamp.

Desperate to escape her smothering life, Jasmine escapes from the palace and meets Aladdin in the market. But, they are soon captured by the palace guards, who want to return Princess Jasmine home and to detain Aladdin, whom Jafar has surmised is the one person who can enter the "Cave of Wonders". Using a nefarious scheme, Jafar sends Aladdin to complete this task, and he finds the lamp, and releases the playful Genie (voiced by Robin Williams). The Genie offers Aladdin the usual three wishes, and Aladdin wishes to be a prince, in order to impress Jasmine. Now disguised as Prince Ali, Aladdin returns to the palace to woo Jasmine. But, the scheme doesn't fool Jafar and he vows to unmask "Prince Ali" and get the Genie for himself.

As noted above, Aladdin still works very well after all these years and the movie has lost very little of its original luster. Back in 1992, the one thing that I was sure wouldn't hold up was the performance of Robin Williams as the Genie. His manic vocal acting really brings the character to life in the film, but he goes way over the top at times and pulls in many cultural references. Some of these, such as Arsenio Hall, don't play today, but for the most part, the Genie is as charming as ever. Equally charming is the film's timeless plot, which is just as engaging as ever, as it's easy to relate to the plight of Aladdin and the messages of honesty and being true to one's self are just as important today as they were when the film was released. Even though we've lived through the CGI animation revolution, the animation of Aladdin is still very impressive. The great transfer on this DVD (more on that in a moment) really highlights the light and dark moments in this movie. There are some very dark moments in the film, which is unusual for animation and really contrasts with the bright, desert scenes. The songs in the film, from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman are catchy and never to saccharine, except for maybe "A Whole New World". When Aladdin was initially released, I felt that many were a bit too hasty in labeling it a "Disney Classic", but seeing how well the film has held up over the years, and considering just how fun the movie is, it just might deserve that title.

Aladdin flies onto DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the THX-certified transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The images looks fantastic, as the picture is very sharp and clear, showing just a slight touch of grain in some shots, and no defects from the source prints. The animation looks fantastic and it never shows any stuttering or jagged lines. The colors look great and they are never over-saturated. Once again, the film juxtaposes light and dark scenes, and they both look great on this well-balanced transfer. There is some minor artfacting and shimmering at times, but these problems are easily forgiven. The DVD contains two great audio tracks. There is a traditional Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a newly created Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix, which is also in 5.1. The Dolby track is good, but the Disney Enhanced track truly rocks, as it offers booming subwoofer effects and nearly constant surround sound effects. The dialogue is clear and the songs sound great. This dynamic audio track really enhances the beautiful visuals.

Being part of Disney's "Platinum Edition" line, the Aladdin DVD release is truly loaded with extra features, of which I'll discuss the highlights. Disc 1 features two audio commentaries. The first features co-writers/co-producers John Musker & Ron Clements, and producer Amy Pell, and the second has animators Andreas Deja (Jafar), Will Finn (Iago), Eric Goldberg (Genie), and Glen Keane (Aladdin). Both of these commentaries are educational, letting the audience in on secrets of the animation (which get a bit technical at times), to the changes in story and character that the film went through. They also discuss the casting and the overall feel of the film. The viewer can also watch Aladdin with "Pop-up Fun Facts" which give tidbits about the movie. The rest of the extras on Disc 1 focus on music from the film, including four deleted songs (shown in storyboard form) which show a very different version of Aladdin's story. Along with this are two brief deleted scenes. There are also music videos from Clay Aiken, Jessica Simpson & Nick Lachey (each of which is accompanied by a behind-the-scenes look at the video) and a video from 1992 with Regina Belle and Peabo Bryson. There are also 5 sing-alongs, or the viewer can choose to have sing-along lyrics posted throughout the film.

The extras on Disc 2 are dominated by "A Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Aladdin". This behind-the-scenes featurette, which is hosted by Leonard Maltin, runs nearly 2 hours and shows every stage of the making of the film, offering a staggering amount of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew. "Alan Menken: Musical Renaissance Man" (20 minutes) examines the life and career of one of Disney's greatest composers. "The Art of Aladdin" contains an "Art Review" (9 minutes) and 4 still galleries. There is also a gallery of posters in the Publicity section, which also contains the original trailer for Aladdin. The rest of the extras on Disc 2 are less impressive, as they include set-top games and 3-D interactive tours of the Genie's lamp.

8 out of 10 Jackasses

blog comments powered by Disqus