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Disney's: Aladdin
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Kids/Family, Musical
Duration: 1 hr. 30 min.
Starring: Scott Weinger, Brad Kane, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Lea Salonga
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Producer: Don Ernst.
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: November 11, 1992
Writer: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio

I am not a great fan of the animated versions of fairy tales and, in this case, Arabian Nights tales, as produced by Disney Studios. I frankly questioned that proclivity when I saw BEAUTY AND THE BEAST just about a year ago. It seemed to me at that point Disney (the studio, not the man) had learned how to hell a story with complexity and one that worked on multiple levels. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, it seemed to me, was a film that said something about the human condition. Now the same company makes ALADDIN. Is it as good as BEAUTY? Try asking if it is even as good as THE LITTLE MERMAID. This one is a solid disappointment.

Let us start with the story. I think we all know the story of Aladdin, right? Good. Will somebody tell it to the good folks at Disney, please. Disney is often less than faithful to source material. In this case perhaps one or two scenes of the story made it to the film. The screenplay by Ron Clements and John Musker (who also produced and directed) in fact is almost a reasonable version of the modern story "The Thief of Baghdad." The setting has been moved from China to Arabia for reasons best know to Clements and Musker. In this version Aladdin falls in love with the princess of Aqaba and sets out to win her. Even telling that story would not have been a bad idea, but the film goes desperately wrong with its use of Robin Williams as the genie of the lamp. When the genie is on the screen we go from the usual timeless story-telling to a bunch of topical allusions that may be amusing on first viewing, but will not be a second time. Williams lampoons Arnold Schwarzenegger, William F. Buckley, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Groucho Marx, and a host of other celebrities. Williams totally derails any style that the film has been able to build up. The story-telling often just stops dead as Williams does his thing or the film goes off into slapstick.

At least there is something positive to say about the art and animation, some of which is actually quite nice. There is a cave whose mouth is the head of a tiger that is both well drawn and well animated. Backgrounds are intentionally blurred and then focused sharply to shift the eye of the viewer and give a feeling of depth. There is a very nice sequence involving a rolling cylinder--I will not describe how it fits into the plot. The animation is sufficient but the extremely uneven tone and the almost total lack of fidelity to the story make this a lesser effort from Disney. My rating is 0 on the -4 to +4 scale.







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