The final of the Ron & John directed classics on the list, Aladdin is the leadup to what would be the pique of the Disney Renaissance. Coming hot off the heels of Beauty and the Beast, this film needed to have the same memorable structure, storytelling and spectacle what that film. What was given certainly holds its own by finding itself in a story about no longer being trapped and finding freedom with some phenomenal comedy sprinkled in here and there courtesy of the master of comedy at the time Robin Williams.
Aladdin (Scott Weinger) is a diamond in the rough of Agrabah roaming the streets, stealing food and being shunned by society as a “street rat.” He doesn’t by that as he longs for more than just his life. Meanwhile at the palace, the Sultan (Douglas Seale) is looking for a suitor for his daughter Jasmine (Linda Larkin) while his royal visor Jafar (Johnathan Freeman) is looking for a lamp in the Cave of Wonders, but needs someone of good heart despite their exterior. Along with his sarcastic bird Iago (Gilbert Gottfried), they find and use Aladdin to get the lamp until he gets stuck with the lamp and uses the Genie (Williams) to escape the cave. Aladdin gets three wishes from rubbing the lamp like so and wishes to be Prince Ali Ababwa to win the heart of the princess, but Jafar has other plans to rid Agrabah of Prince Abubu by becoming the greatest sorcerer of all time.
Aladdin covers the bases of the classic formula of the time and breathing a new life into them with a modern-at-the-time style. It certainly set in the word of ancient Persia, but feels closer to Broadway and Las Vegas entertainment except without the overpriced tickets and all-you-can-eat buffet. It is an entertaining trek hitting all the right notes with the spectacular songs by Alan Menken and Tim Rice from the delectable sweetness of “A Whole New World,” the charming boasts of “Price Ali” and the absolute show stopper that is “Friend Like Me” to name a few. In fact, most of the songs in the film can get stuck in my head for days after viewing. There is also elegance in the art direction and design with a beautiful use of curvatures and angles that stun the eye. It captures the art of the Middle East and the calligraphy of the Arabic language. Every character also is not wasted and shines equally with the evil of Jafar looming over as a affable, but menacing villain and his foil of the charming suave of Aladdin in constant cahoots.
Now, let’s be honest, this film would be lower if it was not for the Genie. This is arguably one of the greatest characters ever created by the Disney company. He stands out in his bright blue form and his gorgeous design by Eric Goldberg bringing an Al Hirschfeld aesthetic to him with his curves and smile on his face. Just add Robin Williams and it is a dream come true and that’s what they did. Williams’ performance in this film is nothing short of fantastic. When I think of Williams’ work, this is the standout for me. He leaves a lasting impression by doing impressions, adds levity to the film and brings a film that could have been slightly mediocre, but pretty to a marvel to behold. He even looks like his voice actor and can show a deeper emotional side as well. Genie is the heart and soul of Aladdin besides, well, Aladdin. Overall, this film is remarkable on every level and a whole new world to experience for any Disney fan.
Critic’s Quote: “Robin Williams and animation were born for one another, and in “Aladdin” they finally meet. Williams’ speed of comic invention has always been too fast for flesh and blood; the way he flashes in and out of characters can be dizzying.” – roger Ebert, November 25, 1992
Signature Moment: The first appearance of the Genie leading to the phenomenal “Friend Like Me” brings the movie from run-of-the-mill to true classic.