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Wayback Wednesday: Aladdin (1992)

A wish come true.

You guys, I don’t think I’m ready for this.

This review is arguably the most important one that I’m going to write. Aladdin (1992) is not only my favourite Disney movie, but quite possibly my favourite movie of all-time. If it doesn’t take the coveted first-place spot, than it definitely lands somewhere in the top five. I re-watched that VHS tape so many times that I was afraid I was going to ruin it. This movie is a beloved piece of my childhood and I can’t even begin to describe how important it is to me. Think of that movie you remember watching all the time as a child, the one that never failed to make you laugh and smile as you got swept away in the wonderful story it was telling. That’s what Aladdin is to me.

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Credit: / Buena Vista Pictures

Loosely based on the “One Thousand and One Nights” tale of the same name, Aladdin follows the titular hero, a poor thief living on the streets of Agrabah. After a chance encounter with the free-spirited Princess Jasmine, Aladdin goes to great lengths to see her again, even agreeing to steal a seemingly ordinary oil lamp for a mysterious stranger. When Aladdin discovers the lamp’s true purpose, he meets an all-powerful genie with the power to change his life and grant him three wishes.

I have no idea where to begin with this review. I seriously considered just writing, “this shit’s flawless,” and calling it a day. That’s how much I love Aladdin. Although that love is deep and intense, it isn’t rooted solely in nostalgia. This is genuinely a near-perfect, if not completely perfect, movie. It’s pure Disney magic. From the opening notes of “Arabian Nights” to the gorgeously painted backdrops to the Peddler starting the movie off with a handful of memorably solid jokes, Aladdin swiftly draws in its audience. What’s amazing about the way Aladdin pulls you into its fantastic world, is that it does so effortlessly. All it takes is the sound of its incredible songs, the look of its breathtaking art, and the comedy of its ferociously funny script to make you stop and think, “oh, this movie is something special.” I’m so appreciative that Disney didn’t decide to just phone this one in and rest on the goodwill they had earned from recent successes like The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991). You can tell the amount of expert craftsmanship that went into Aladdin, craftsmanship that solidifies the movie’s status as one of Disney’s most treasured classics.

As with most movies during the Disney Renaissance (the decade from 1989 – 1999 when the studio released some of its most iconic animated movies), Aladdin boasts a timeless soundtrack that is tattooed on the hearts of anyone lucky enough to grow up during that time period. Isn’t it crazy that there are only five songs in the entire movie? Doesn’t it feel like there are so many more? Regardless, it doesn’t get much better than “Arabian Nights,” “One Jump Ahead,” “Friend Like Me,” “Prince Ali,” and “A Whole New World,” Each song is a stunning piece of music that in true musical fashion, helps to further the movie’s plot and give the audience a better understanding of its characters. Thanks to the incomparable work of Disney music veterans Howard Ashman, Alan Menken and Tim Rice, Aladdin becomes a richer story, one that is able to balance magical adventure with toe-tapping musical numbers. “A Whole New World” may just be the most romantic duet in the Disney canon and I don’t say this lightly, but that whole sequence is a truly iconic piece of animation. On the more comedic side, “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” are easily tied for best song by a sidekick. They’re so much freaking fun and jam-packed with jokes that went way over my head as a kid! I’m confident the songwriters added even more humour to the tracks once Robin Williams got involved in the movie. Oh, we’ll get to Williams, just you wait.

If you close your eyes and listen closely, you can almost imagine the characters in Aladdin as real, fresh-and-blood beings. Each one is so well-rounded, intriguing and perfectly-voiced, that it’s almost like watching a play. Let’s get one thing out of the way: Jonathan Freeman as Jafar is one of the most menacing Disney villains of all time. That low, eerie, almost snake-like voice? I get chills just thinking about it. Sinister and terrifying, what makes Jafar such a great villain is his cutthroat ambition and lust for power. He doesn’t blink an eye when the Cave of Wonders kills that guy in the beginning, and he’s more than happy to try and kill Aladdin multiple times to get his hands on the lamp! Don’t even get me started on Iago. Casting the abrasively obnoxious and loud-mouthed Gilbert Gottfried to play an even more abrasively obnoxious and loud-mouthed parrot? Inspired casting! Pairing Jafar and Iago together is brilliant because they simultaneously represent how seamlessly the movie can switch its tone from dark to light-hearted.

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Credit: / Buena Vista Pictures

From their first meeting, Aladdin and Jasmine share an instant chemistry that you don’t see in most Disney couples. I love that the movie lays the groundwork of creating parallels between their characters, each feeling trapped in their own way and longing for a whole new world of adventure and romance. Wink wink, nudge nudge. While Aladdin is obviously a charitable and courageous hero worth cheering for, I don’t think Jasmine gets nearly enough credit as a protagonist. She’s strong, tenacious, clever, and eager to show her father that she’s capable of doing more than sitting behind palace walls. Separately each of these characters are heroes that you can’t help but fall in love with and root for, but it’s when they’re together that their undeniable chemistry makes them a magnetic force. Plus, anytime you give a hero sidekicks as enjoyably entertaining as Abu, Carpet, and Rajah, you’re sure to win over any viewer. Speaking of sidekicks…

Okay. It’s time. I’m ready.

Let’s talk about Robin fucking Williams.

To this day, his is the only celebrity death that has really taken a toll on me. How could it not? Between Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), The Birdcage (1996), and Good Will Hunting (1997), the man is responsible for a plethora of my all-time favourite movies! However, it’s his scene-stealing role as the Genie in Aladdin that will forever be the greatest reason why I love Robin Williams. This is Williams’ movie. A comedic tour de force and a truly masterful performance of improvisational comedy, Williams’ charisma and effervescence is given the freedom it naturally demands. Talk about an iconic performance! You can tell how much fun Williams is having with the role and I bet it was a dream for him as a comic to get the opportunity to play such a versatile, off-the-wall character.

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Credit: / Buena Vista Pictures

Could you imagine how much fun it must have been to be in the studio and watch Williams perform? I don’t even want to think about how many hours of unused footage they have of the energetic star. As far as comedic sidekicks in Disney movies go, Williams undoubtedly sets the bar with his performance as the Genie. But what makes his role all the more endearing is the human side we get to see of the character. Longing to be set free of his duties to the lamp, the Genie has his own wishes and desires and those are the grounding qualities that make his character so worthwhile. I love the Genie, I love Robin Williams, and my God, I love this fucking movie.

It’s impossible to watch Aladdin and be bored. No matter what your tastes are cinematically, you’ll find something to love about this fantastic piece of filmmaking. It checks EVERY box:

  • Gorgeous music
  • Dynamic action and adventure
  • Sweeping romance
  • Hilarious and lovable characters
  • Touching and timeless story

I mean, what more could you ask for in a movie animated or otherwise? Sure to keep a smile on your face from start to finish, Aladdin is an unforgettable story that deserves an entire Cave of Wonders full of love and admiration. A wish come true in every sense of the term, I can’t speak highly enough of this perfect movie. Who am I kidding? This is definitely my favourite movie of all-time.

Do you love Aladdin as much as I do? What’s your favourite Disney movie?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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