“To be my own master. Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world.”
I’ve caught up on a few Disney classics for the sake of this blog, but there are still plenty of black spots in my Disney animated knowledge. Having never seen the really old ones as a kid, I blame on my parents. How did they never show me Peter Pan, Dumbo, Bambi, 101 Dalmatians, Cinderella or Lady and the Tramp? But the not so old ones, I can only blame myself. In the 90s, I was at that age where I thought I was too old and too cool for corny Disney crap. Which is why I’m only just now getting around to Aladdin, more than 20 years after the fact.
In some gloriously stereotypical middle eastern country of turbans and taj mahals, lives Aladdin (Scott Weinger). A street rat and hustler, Aladdin and his monkey survive on stolen bread and big dreams. On the right side of the tracks is Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin), daughter of the Sultan (Douglas Seale). The Sultan wants his daughter to get married and he’s taking advice from the sinister Jafar (Jonathan Freeman).
All of these loose threads are quickly tied together with Aladdin and Jasmine meeting, before pretty much instantly falling in love. They’re also thrown together by Jafar’s plot to find a cave filled with treasures, a cave that can only be accessed by a diamond in the rough. When it turns out that Aladdin is that diamond, he discovers the cave and its greatest treasure, a magical lamp that contains a wish granting genie (Robin Williams). With his first wish, Aladdin becomes a prince, now worthy of Jasmine’s affections. But Jafar isn’t too interesting in anyone living happily ever after, so he steps in to mess with everyone’s shit.
By far, the stand out performance in Aladdin is that of Robin Williams. It was the most talked about aspect back when it came out and it’s still the most recognisable aspect of the movie now. And it’s immediately evident why. The Genie character doesn’t appear until a solid third of the way in, but the movie is instantly kicked into another gear that coasts through the next hour at a great clip. The Genie might be the most effective use of William’s frenetic, ad libbed craziness in his entire career.
The voices and impressions come at the audience so quick that it doesn’t really matter when they don’t hit or don’t really make sense in the context of the movie. Because even when you do notice that, he has zipped through half a dozen more voices and impressions before the thought even enters your head. Nowadays, it’s hard to believe there was a time when animated movies weren’t sold on their big name voice cast. What’s not hard to believe, is that the performance of Robin Williams in Aladdin is what changed that forever.
The downside is, none of the rest of the movie matches Williams. The story is kind of boring, the rest of the characters are bland and not a single song stuck out as particularly good or memorable. So if you haven’t seen Aladdin, you really should. But at the same time, feel free to skip those Genie-less 30 minutes. You won’t miss anything that matters.