Aladdin – I’ve always liked this movie quite a bit. I saw it three times at the theater, which was a lot for me, although I’m sure some of you have seen films at the theater more times than that. As is typical for these Disney features, a lot of liberties are taken with the original story. The tale as it appears in the Arabian Nights is kind of similar to “Jack and the Beanstalk,” with Aladdin as a lazy boy who lives with his mom, and acquires riches through magic he comes across pretty much by accident. I’ve heard that the original script included some more elements of the original, like Aladdin living with his mother and there being TWO genies, one in a lamp and the other in a ring. In the finished film, however, there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t from “Aladdin” in particular, but just from the Arabian Nights in general.
There’s no flying carpet in the “Aladdin” story, for instance, but it’s one of the first things that comes to mind when many of us think about Arabian folk tales. Some parts of the movie are also pretty obvious references to the 1940 Thief of Bagdad as well, including the hero’s thieving sidekick named Abu (although he wasn’t a monkey in the earlier film), the treacherous vizier and magician Jaffar (Disney removed one of the F’s), and the love interest being the daughter of an absent-minded sultan who loves toys. I have to wonder if there was also some influence from the Popeye version of the Aladdin tale, particularly when the Genie comes out of the lamp while in the middle of taking a bath. In the Popeye cartoon, he emerges shaving at one point, and eating an ice cream cone at another. The procession to the castle, with a song playing and Aladdin handing out money, is also pretty similar.
The movie’s Aladdin isn’t lazy, but rather someone who’s basically slipped through the cracks, a petty criminal with a heart of gold (or a diamond in the rough, as the movie itself calls him). He hangs out with a monkey for some reason, and the main villain also has an animal companion, a parrot named Iago (after the villain in Shakespeare’s Othello) with the voice of Gilbert Gottfried.
Speaking of voices, Beth wanted me to point out that the Sultan’s voice actor, Douglas Seale, plays Santa Claus in Ernest Saves Christmas. Of course, the role everyone remembers is Robin Williams as the Genie, doing his typical hyper series of impressions.
I’m not the biggest fan of Williams in general, but he works here. Of course, many of his references are anachronisms, but maybe he operates outside the normal time frame. That wouldn’t explain how other characters understand these references, though. Aladdin, for instance, seems to have no problem getting what Genie means when he turns into Pinocchio. Oh, well.
As much as I enjoy this movie, I do have a few issues with it. One is the matter of Aladdin’s wish to become a prince. He certainly looks the part after Genie is done with him, but when he later advises Aladdin to tell the truth, the boy says, “That I’m not really a prince?” Later, after Jafar is defeated, Genie suggests making Aladdin into a prince again. So is all it takes to remove his royalty changing his clothes back into rags, like Jafar does? Or was the prince thing only an illusion in the first place, which hardly seems fair? I’m guessing the whole retinue of servants and animals was illusory, since we never see them again, although Abu’s elephant form was real. Also, what if Aladdin HAD told Jasmine the truth earlier on? “Well, I WAS poor, but then I found a magic lamp”? What, does anyone think she’d believe that?
Speaking of Jasmine, she’s another problem I have with the film. She tells her father she wants to marry for love rather than political reasons, which is probably even more anachronistic for the setting than an Arsenio Hall impression. She doesn’t take too kindly to Aladdin as Prince Ali at first, but once he shows her he has a magic carpet, she falls for him pretty much immediately. She’s like the girls who only go for guys with nice cars. Not exactly a major victory for women’s lib, is it? Beth also pointed out that, while Jafar initially just wanted to marry Jasmine for the power, he later tried to get her to fall in love with him. Where did THAT come from all of a sudden? Did it have to do with that sluttier outfit that Jafar gave her? And come to think of it, when Jasmine figured out the prince was the same as the guy she’d met in the marketplace, shouldn’t she have wondered why he was still alive?
That’s pretty much what I have to say about Aladdin. That’s thirty-one of these movies down, and twenty-one still to go. Well, maybe not exactly, as I’ve already reviewed a few of the newer ones, and I’m not sure we’ll be able to find all the ones Beth doesn’t have on video.