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Aladdin (G)
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Caution: spoilers!

This came out in 1992. I guess I first saw it on VHS sometime in the early 90s. I finally got it on DVD in January 2016, which is when I'm writing this review. (I watched it right after an episode of Galavant, which coincidentally shares one of this movie's composers, Alan Menken. Also coincidentally, right after I finished watching the movie, I checked facebook, and saw a link to an SNL skit that spoofs one of the movie's iconic scenes. This little coincidence sandwich is made all the sweeter by the fact that the episode of Galavant included a scene set in the Forest of Coincidence.) Anyway... I knew I loved the movie, but watching it now, I find that I loved it even more than I remembered. Seriously, it's pretty much perfect. And... I hope I can remember all the things I wanted to say. First of all, I need to mention that it was part of the Disney Renaissance. And it has lots of awesome songs, great animation, a great cast, great characters, great humor, great adventure, and a better than average love story. Oh! And last month there was a wacky poll in which Republicans wanted to bomb Agrabah, the fictional sultanate from this movie. But that's the present, I wanted to mention memories I have from when the movie was new. Like... Jasmine is hot, okay... I always like Disney princesses, especially from the aforementioned Renaissance era. But one thing I specifically remember is reading that the animators also wanted to make Aladdin himself attractive, for the female audience. I always thought that was cool. (I don't suppose animators over the past several decades had ever been trying to make ugly male leads, or anything, but... it was nice that they made a more conscious effort, in this case.) More importantly, Jasmine and Aladdin both had better personalities than the characters in a lot of older animated movies. (But I reckon that, too, is fairly common for the Renaissance era, and really any of the movies Disney has made since then.) What else? I remember being aware that Aladdin was voiced by Scott Weinger, which at the time was significant to me because he was on Full House. Also last October I saw a video of an awesome cover of one of the songs in this movie, Friend Like Me, by Ne-Yo. (But again, that's the present.) And I absolutely cannot forget to mention that when I started writing my book "The Chaos" in 1997, I included a whole class of people called street rats because of this movie. And I'm probably forgetting things I wanted to say about the movie (and its legacy), but I suppose that's enough for now.

So, it begins with a peddler, trying to sell worthless junk. But for some reason, he has one item that's very special... an oil lamp with an incredible past. So I guess the whole movie is ostensibly him telling the story, though we never see or hear him again, after the opening scene. Anyway, the story really begins with a man named Jafar, who we will soon learn is the Grand Vizier of Agrabah, but for now his identity is a mystery. He has a loyal companion, a snarky parrot named Iago (Gilbert Gottfried). And he has gotten a thief to obtain half of a golden scarab thing that leads to the Cave of Wonders, which he wants the thief to enter for him and obtain a lamp. However, the cave will only allow a specific "diamond in the rough" to enter. A bit later, Jafar will learn that the person in question is a homeless young man named Aladdin (referred to as a "street rat"), and he'll send palace guards to capture him. But before that happens, we get to know Aladdin. He's always running from guards, because he has to steal in order to eat. (And he's really good at it; he almost seems like he invented parkour, or something.) But we also see that he's pretty selfless, giving the food he stole to younger street rats even needier than himself. Also, he has a loyal companion of his own, a monkey named Abu (Frank Welker), though unlike Iago, Abu doesn't exactly talk. (Though it's always pretty easy to understand what he means.)

We also see Princess Jasmine, the daughter of the Sultan, whom the law decrees will have to marry a prince before her next birthday. She is not at all happy about this, because of course she wants to marry for love, and she doesn't like any of her suitors. Also, she has a tiger friend named Rajah. (While watching the movie this time, I kind of thought the fact that three characters each have animal companions was similar to the Sannin from Naruto, but that was a really pointless and random thought. I'm sorry I even mentioned it.) Jasmine is also upset that she's never even left the palace. So of course she decides to sneak out and wander around town incognito. And of course she seems to have no concept of money, so she soon gets in trouble with a vendor, from whom Aladdin rescues her. Soon after that, Aladdin is captured by the guards who were sent by Jafar. Jasmine goes to talk to Jafar, but he tells her he's already had Aladdin executed, which upsets her terribly.

However, Aladdin is actually in a dungeon, where Jafar disguises himself as an old prisoner, who helps him escape and tricks him into entering the Cave of Wonders, to find the lamp. While in the cave, Aladdin and Abu meet a magic carpet (which has a lot of personality, for an object that neither speaks nor has any kind of vocalization at all). Carpet leads them to the lamp, which Aladdin gives to the old man, who leaves him to die in the cave. However, he survives, and it turns out Abu had stolen the lamp back from Jafar. Aladdin rubs the lamp, trying to read an inscription, and that releases a Genie (Robin Williams), who will grant Aladdin three wishes. (There are a few caveats: no wishing for more wishes, no killing anyone, no making anyone fall in love, and no bringing anyone back from the dead.) Genie is pretty hilarious, and creates lots of sight gags and other jokes, many of which are pop culture references from times and places Aladdin couldn't possibly comprehend (which kind of reminded me of Merlin, from The Sword in the Stone, but to a much greater, pretty much nonstop degree). Also there are various references to other Disney moves.

Aladdin tricks him into freeing him from the cave, without using up one of his wishes. After that, he tries to think what to actually wish for, and asks Genie what he would wish for. And Genie says he'd wish to be free, which can only happen if his master uses one of his wishes to free him. Which none of his previous masters have ever done, but Aladdin promises to use his third wish to free the Genie. But his first wish is to become a prince, so that he'd be allowed to become a suitor to Jasmine. Meanwhile, Iago has an idea that Jafar could get the Sultan to force Jasmine to marry Jafar, who would then become Sultan, himself. This plan is spoiled when Aladdin shows up as "Prince Ali Ababwa." Genie thinks Aladdin should tell Jasmine the truth about himself, even if he has to lie to everyone else, but Al believes a princess could never love a street rat. (Of course his thinking is completely backwards, but luckily, Jasmine is smart enough to figure it out for herself.) So, in spite of Jasmine initially disliking Prince Ali as much as all her other would-be suitors, they soon hit it off. Unfortunately, Jafar isn't done with his own plotting to take over the sultanate. His attempt to get rid of Ali leads to Aladdin using his second wish, the precise nature of which I won't spoil. But... after that, he thinks he still needs Genie, so may have to renege on his promise to free him.

Anyway... it seems like they get rid of Jafar, but he's still not done plotting. He figures out the truth about Aladdin, and sends Iago to steal the lamp, so Jafar becomes Genie's new master. But Aladdin manages to trick him in a way I won't spoil (until the review of the sequel). With Jafar finally defeated, the Sultan decides to change the law, so that Jasmine can choose to marry Aladdin even though he's not really a prince. (Which won't actually happen until the third movie.) So, it's a really happy ending. (And yes, Aladdin does finally free the Genie.)

Well, I think Aladdin and Jasmine made a pretty good couple, considering they both felt "trapped" by their respective stations in life. And incidentally, it occurred to me that Jasmine and Genie also had a lot in common. The princess's living space wasn't as itty-bitty as the Genie's, but like him, she was definitely a lot less free than Aladdin (while also having a lot more power than Aladdin). Um... I should also mention there were some controversies, such as the depiction of Arab characters. (This is not something I ever really understood, because all the characters, good and bad alike, were Arabs. And if the villains were less attractive than the good characters... well, that's just how most movies work. And watching it in 2016, I was struck by the fact that Allah is casually mentioned at least a couple of times, which is something I'd expect Islamophobes to take greater offense at than Muslims.) On an unrelated note, there's a certain misheard line in the movie that I never heard at all, which I'm not going to specify because it's just ridiculous. (But I'm sure you can find mention of it on other sites.) Anyway, as I said before, I'm probably forgetting lots of things I wanted to say. (And as usual, I feel like I've said way too much.) But the important thing is, it's an awesome movie on nearly every level.

There was also a TV spin-off, and a couple of direct-to-video sequels, The Return of Jafar and Aladdin and the King of Thieves.

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