Aladdin (1992)

(On DVD, April 2017) This is not quite a “first viewing” review. I have, after all, seen quite a lot of Aladdin by sheer virtue of being a dad. But living with a preschooler-in-chief means that most kids’ movies have to be seen in bits and pieces, always in French and in-between fetching, cleaning or food-prepping. Over time, I have grown accustomed to the ever-growing DVD library of kid’s movies that I’ve seen but never really watched. Well, it’s time to remedy that. (My daughter was scandalized that I would want to watch one of her movies in the original English while she was busy playing—note to self; for The Little Mermaid or The Lion King, wait until after bedtime.) Now that I’ve had the chance to watch the movie from beginning to end, let’s acknowledge a few things: It’s a tight take on the Aladdin story, filled with enough humour, action, suspense, romance and adventure to entertain everyone. The animation is pretty good, with an impressive early integration of CGI and 2D animation at a time when such a thing was only becoming possible for top-notch studios such as Disney. The film is worth viewing in the original English if only for Robin Williams’ remarkable tour-de-force vocal performance at the genie. Not only does the film come alive when he’s on-screen, but his rapid patter is typically Williamsesque to a point that gets lost even in the most well-meaning translation. I’ve long suspected that Jasmine is one of my favourite princesses, and this film confirms why—you can clearly see in her nature the template for the feisty female characters that would form the core of the Princess archetype during the Disney Resurgence period that continues even today. At roughly 90 minutes, it’s a film that doesn’t have a lot of dull moments. (Although I would redo the introduction: Not only does it come across as a bit racist, it inelegantly contextualizing the film as being “from somewhere else”, contrarily to the approach taken by more recent film such as Frozen or Moana that takes us inside the other culture from the first few moments.) Small nice moments abound, such as the two-faceted nature of the villain animal sidekick (another performance worth savouring in English, by Gilbert Gottfried), or the surprisingly deep bond of friendship between Aladdin and the genie. Musically, I like Aladdin’s introduction songs (both of them), and the effective “Friend Like Me”. All in all, Aladdin remains quite satisfying for the kids, pleasantly funny for the adults who can catch the anachronistic references, and a family film in the best sense of the expression.

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