A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.


June 27, 2011


I saw this for the first time on opening night at the Mann Chinese Theater in Hollywood. (Thank you Uncle Ken!) It was a spectacular experience with a whole chorus line performing songs from Beauty and the Beast before the feature and all the pomp and circumstance that a Hollywood premier should involve. (At least that’s my vague recollection… it might have been the Beauty and the Beast premier I’m remembering.)

What I do know is that I love this movie. It’s been a few years since I last watched it and I was surprised and relieved to find that it hasn’t really aged very much in the intervening time. Oh, the first verse of the opening song has been altered to make the movie less offensive, but other than that it’s the same movie I first saw in the theater. Even today I find that I enjoy the humor, the gorgeous animation and even the message of the movie.

In the same way that many Disney animated films are loosely based on fairy tales this movie is loosely based on tales from 1001 nights. A lovable rogue and thief on the streets of Aggrabah (a character familiar to us after having already reviewed two different versions of Thief of Bagdad) ends up in possession of a magic lamp containing an all-powerful Genie. Using his three wishes he attempts to gain the love of a princess, only to have the lamp stolen by a power-mad Vizier (is there any other kind) who wants to rule the world. That’s the rough outline. What makes the movie fun is what it does with that.

For one thing it has a fantastic and snappy collection of songs. This was the Alan Menkin and Tim Rice era of Disney musicals. Indeed there are many songs here that feel almost as though they are lifted directly from Little Mermaid in tone and spirit. I know that in Amanda’s book this is a down side because now she has songs from this movie caught in her brain, but I still enjoy them after all these years.

For another thing it has fantastic, fluid, beautiful animation throughout. I remember being very impressed at the time by some of the computer generated backgrounds such as during the magic carpet escape from the cave of wonders. It may look a little dated today, but at the time it was groundbreaking stuff.

I also enjoy the blatant messages in the plot. The notion that Aladdin should be honest about himself to win the heart of Princess Jasmine. The repeated insistence of Jasmine that she is not a prize to be won and deserves to make her own choice about whom she will marry. They’re simple morals but effective nonetheless, which is something Disney is fairly good at.

Of course all this pales in comparison with the one true reason to watch this movie. Two words: Robin Williams. This is his party, and everybody else is just invited along. His mile-a-minute riffs combined with the wild animation provided by teams of hard working animators results in a wonderful and mesmerizing experience. Amanda and I laughed at all the references that would sail right over the heads of children in the audience from Groucho Marx to Peter Lorre to Ed Sullivan. Then there are the bits that would have seemed topical at the time but are artifacts from a bygone era today, like his Arsenio Hall whooping. The truth is that no matter how many times I see this movie this shtick doesn’t get old. It’s Williams just doing his usual thing, albeit edited down for a G audience, and that’s just fun.

What can I say? This movie brings back happy memories. Memories of watching the film with my friend Rachel while she sang along. Memories of playing the classic SNES game based on the movie. (I think it has been re-released on virtual console for the Wii – I may have to buy it and play it again.) I know that for Amanda the result of watching this movie is that she wants us to own some Robin Williams stand-up routines, and I’m fine with that as well.


June 27, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , ,

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