(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Aladdin (1992)
One Sentence Plot Summary: A poor street rat is only able to raise his station in life and marry a princess because of an incredible amount of magic and a personal genie.
Why It’s the List: I remember seeing this movie when I was seven with my mom at a time when I didn’t go the theater 100 times a year . In a way, this was a more quaint time when seeing movies was a huge deal. Maybe it’s why everything about this movie has stuck with me so long over the years. There are a number of issues, but I can’t deny the high-quality animation, incredible music, and other worldly performance from one Robin Williams.
I’ll talk about Robin Williams later, but Disney’s resurrection in the late 1980s was truly transformative for me. As I was coming of age through primary school, the company was putting out its best work. The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast are tremendous, but I was just a bit too young for the former and not as into the pure romance of the latter. There is romance in Aladdin, but it also has some bombastic comedy and memorable music that isn’t always related to the romance of Aladdin and Jasmine. Even the primary romantic ballad, “A Whole New World” might be the best Disney song ever written and created.
I always appreciate how delightfully evil Jafar and Iago are for all of time. Disney has a tradition of primary villains and goody side kicks. Part of the Disneyssiance has to do with their ability to find the best voice actors and get the right amount of cartoony menace (the live action remakes have done a terrible job of this). If I ever have children, I can’t imagine a scenario where this isn’t the first Disney film we watch together.
*Vague Arab characters voiced by mostly white people
*Can we get Jasmine some agency? Her one song is a love ballad. Credit to the live-action movie for at least trying to rectify this.
MVP and Best Performance: All due respect to the animators and behind the scenes people, but this movie lives and dies on Robin Williams. Maybe Aladdin still works with another voice, but watch the straight to VHS sequel and subsequent series where Dan Castellaneta (legendary voiceover performer himself and OPRF graduate) does the Genie voice. It’s bad!
Maybe Robin Williams makes a few too many pop culture references that kids and even a lot of adults won’t understand, but he gives this movie life multiple times throughout. For a man who seemingly was a cartoon character in real life, this was the perfect role. He still hits some of the emotional peaks as well because that’s just what he was able to do. I feel like Robin Williams gets a lot of respect and love since his suicide back in 2013, but his run of duds toward the end of his life have clouded just how good he was at performing. This film shows just what Williams could bring to the screen; all he needed was his voice.
Best Quote: “Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck!” – Genie
Is there a sequel? There are two. Return of Jafar is okay to mediocre. Prince of Thieves has its moments (and it’s notable they brought Williams back, albeit in a smaller role). The live action remake is FINE.