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
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.