In commemoration of the upcoming live-action remake, ALADDIN (2019), I’m taking a trip down memory lane to revisit the animated classic. And before anyone starts asking, no, I won’t be reviewing the direct-to-DVD sequels. Not because I don’t like them, actually I’m quite fond of KING OF THIEVES, but… meh, I’ve got enough of these original films to watch for the year. If a sequel crops up from the live-action one, I’ll do RETURN OF JAFAR, but for now, I’ll keep it one-and-done.
Cast: Scott Weinger (FULLER HOUSE [2016 – ongoing]), Robin Williams (JUMANJI  and DEAD POETS SOCIETY ), Linda Larkin (RALPH/INTERNET ), Jonathan Freeman (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), and Gilbert Gottfried (THE COMEDIAN )
Directors/Co-writers: Ron Clements and John Musker (MOANA  and PRINCESS/FROG )
Co-writers: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (SHREK  and THE MASK OF ZORRO )
Composer: Alan Menken (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST  and the remake , SAUSAGE PARTY , and TANGLED )
Editor: H. Lee Peterson (MADAGASCAR  and DINOSAUR )
This is my honest opinion of: ALADDIN
Aladdin (voiced by Scott Weinger) is a poor boy living in Agrabah with his monkey best friend, Abu (voiced by Frank Welker), constantly hounded by the royal guards for his minor offenses of stealing food to survive. In the royal palace, Princess Jasmine (voiced by Linda Larkin) is tired of her father, the Sultan (voiced by Douglas Seale), trying to marry her off to every self-absorbed prince. Simultaneously, the Sultan’s evil royal vizier Jafar (voiced by Jonathan Freeman) seeks a magic lamp that is hidden away in the Cave of Wonders, and only the one known as “the Diamond in the Rough” is permitted inside, which happens to be Aladdin.
Mmmph… I don’t think I like this movie like I did as a kid. It’s not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but a lot of elements don’t hold up and I really hope that the remake acknowledges the flaws here and corrects them.
For one thing, the animation is wonderful. The city of Agrabah looks gorgeous, bustling with life and personality, from the nice to the hostile merchants, to the fire-spitters, the brothel, the crowds for the arrival of princes, there’s a staggering amount of detail to make this setting its own character and I love it. Absolutely love the intensity of the Cave melting and exploding. Very harrowing. The music also really holds up. Stand outs include “One Jump Ahead,” “Friend Like Me,” which is a total animation trip almost on par with “Pink Elephants” from DUMBO, and of course, “A Whole New World,” is a visual treat. By the way, is there a fan theory saying that the destination Aladdin and Jasmine stopped at by the end of their song is China? I would sure say so. The best element to this movie is, by far, Jafar. I love how evil he is and how much he loves being evil. He cackles, smirks, is so smarmy and manipulative, I love watching him on screen. A close second is Abu, mostly because he’s such a cynical jerk. He doesn’t want to give his food to the kids, definitely hates being polite and sharing food with Jasmine, and even has to be a jerk to Aladdin when he’s confined in the palace dungeon. I love that in a character sometimes and Abu is a ton of fun.
But let’s get to what I really want to yammer about. The negatives.
Let’s start with Aladdin himself. He’s basically IRON MAN 2’s Tony Stark. He’s a solid character for the first half of the movie. He’s considerate, self-sacrificing, generous, smart, clever, resourceful, and charming. Then his character drastically becomes unlikable in the second half. Why does Aladdin think that Jasmine would laugh at him for being a poor boy? She didn’t when they were hanging out in Agrabah. In fact, they had some pretty good chemistry. She was still the princess before he found out. She gave him zero reasons to believe that she didn’t like who he was as a person. I understand the notion of becoming Prince Ali Ababwa. The law states that Jasmine has to be married to a prince, which Aladdin isn’t. So the hard part is over. Pretend to be a prince for the Sultan’s sake, but be Aladdin with Jasmine and see where the relationship goes. At least, it would be that easy if he was smart. He isn’t. He puts on a persona that’s egotistical and self-absorbed, the exact personality type that Jasmine dooesn’t like. And before anyone starts saying, “How would he know that?!” very easily, actually. Notice how Jasmine isn’t married. She’s had many suitors, all of which were rejected for the same reasons. One of them, Aladdin did interact with: Prince Achmed (voiced by Corey Burton). If he didn’t score with Jasmine, why would the personality of Ali? <<<SPOILERS – highlight to reveal>>> [ Not to mention there’s that whole thing about not wanting to free Genie so he can maintain their charade. Made a promise, dug a hole too deep to crawl out of, an unwillingness to own up to one’s mistakes, and jips a friend out of their freedom that they absolutely deserve, as opposed to Aladdin who absolutely does not deserve Jasmine. And no bonus points for the ending. Aladdin was only holding up his promise. Something that shouldn’t need literal earth-shattering events and big revelations to get to. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
How about Jasmine? She’s a pretty tough cookie, right? WRONG! Very wrong. Fine, fine, she doesn’t want to be married to a man that she doesn’t like. Bravo, she’s not shallow. But that’s the best thing that anyone would be able to say about her. Have you noticed that for someone who is as strong-willed as she’s implied to be, she doesn’t do anything about her circumstances? How old is she? Why did it take so long for her to leave the castle grounds and explore Agrabah on her own? Who was going to stop her? Those palace guards seem to be mostly used to patrol the streets and settle disputes regarding stolen loafs of bread. Basically, all she does is complain about her circumstances without actually doing anything to change them. Even when it’s revealed that she’s the princess during Aladdin’s arrest, there never seems to be any real consequences for her running away. No higher walls are being built to prevent her from escaping via her backyard’s tree, no extra guards to keep an eye on her, I would even argue that the Sultan himself doesn’t care that she ran away briefly. So… why has she never been outside the palace walls? It just sort of sounds like she’s lazy and made life harder for herself.
Now let’s talk about that relationship Jasmine has with Aladdin. Their relationship is a recipe for disaster. Keeping in theme with the whole “no consequences” thing, for someone who doesn’t want to marry if it isn’t for love, it’s really not that hard to woo her. How long did she and Aladdin know each other in Agrabah before they were about to suck face? Less than twelve hours? Even Jasmine comments later that she didn’t even know his name at the time. Neither of them did. Oh sure, he learned her name… as he was getting arrested, but that’s about it. How about on that rooftop after the lies are revealed? Again, even less time than that, coupled with said lies, and she actually did suck face with him. I know, I know, fairy tales and Disney tropes, but you know something, that’s still a problem. Just because this is something that Disney has been doing for decades doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a decades-old problem in their storytelling and character development. Even when they’re reunited with Aladdin under the moniker of Prince Ali, she still finds out his true identity. What in blazes does that tell you?! Aladdin straight lied to her, continues to lie to her, USING HER OWN MOTIVATIONS AGAINST HER, saying that he “dresses like a commoner to escape the pressures of palace life,” and doesn’t notice that in the slightest. He didn’t trust her with the truth and she doesn’t care! So when she’s all like…
Aladdin may be too love-struck to say anything, but… yeah, sweetie, I think you’re pretty of stupid. <<<SPOILERS>>> [ Even at the end when literally everything is unraveled and Jafar spills the beans, Jasmine still wants to be in a relationship with him, despite the many layers of lies he created! There’s sequels to this movie. Why wasn’t there more time dedicated to rebuilding trust? Why are there no consequences for Aladdin’s actions?! ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
As much as I love Jafar, his own stupidity seems to rival Jasmine’s. His goal is to rule Agrabah by getting the Genie and wishing for it. Uh… he’s got a mind controlling staff. Seriously, why doesn’t he control the Sultan from the get-go? Rule from the shadows and make the Sultan his puppet? If he wants to marry Jasmine, why doesn’t he mind-control her? Look, I can drive this dark train of thought into some deeply disturbing places, but at the end of the day, tell me I’m wrong. Why go through all of the effort in looking for the magical beetle thing, go through the effort in finding the “Diamond in the Rough,” when literally all of his answers have been in his hands the entire time?
Overall, I don’t want anyone to think that I dislike this movie. Well… okay, I definitely don’t like it nearly as much as when I was a kid and doesn’t hold up as a whole, but I will admit there is artistic merit that makes it somewhat worth seeing. But there are way too many problems with the characters, the plot, all of which don’t hold up. There are plenty of areas where the live-action movie can improve on this original, but Disney has proven to be a creature of habit. How does the saying go? “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” That’s probably how I’m going to go into the remake.
My honest rating for ALADDIN: a weak 3/5