I was born in the 80s, but was a child of the 90s. Aladdin was a huge part of that childhood. I loved Aladdin and it’s two sequels, Return of Jafar and King of Thieves, and even it’s 90s cartoon show which I watched every day after school. I’ve been excited to see the new live action remake since it was announced and was glad to see Will Smith cast as the genie. In preparation for this new remake I decided to rewatch one of my favorite childhood movies for the first time in years. So let’s get this journey down memory lane started.
Aladdin tells the story of a street rat of the same name who dreams to leave his life in the slums behind and live in the palace. Along the way he falls in love with Princess Jasmine, get’s hoodwinked into journeying within the cave of wonders by Jafar and ultimately finds the lamp that unleashes the genie, voiced and basically performed by Robin Williams. With the genie as his friend and three wishes to use, Aladdin ventures forth to be the prince that Princess Jasmine will want to marry.
The characters in this follow the typical tropes of the hero’s journey. Aladdin is the hero from humble beginnings. Jasmine is a damsel who is mostly in distress, although she does have a few, if not enough, good moments. Jafar is straight up evil and Iago the parrot is a henchmen. The king is aloof and bumbling, but also very lovable and jolly.
The genie is the comedic relief and is by far the most enjoyable part of this film. Robin Williams makes this role his own and rewatching it all these years later brought a huge smile to my face. This may be Williams’s seminal performance. The genie is iconic and takes what may have been an easily forgettable 90s animated movie and turns into a classic Disney film that is loved to this day.
You can’t talk about Aladdin without referencing the amazing music written by Alan Menkin. I knew all the lyrics to every song. Even my wife, a self titled Aladdin hater (it’s a boy’s movie), loves and knows the music to this one. “Friend Like Me” and “A Whole New World” are by far the standouts in this film of memorable and hummable classics.
Aladdin is a product of it’s time and does have a few moments of questionable 90s animated computer effects. That aside, it is a movie meant for kids and kids don’t notice that kind of thing. Sure the villain is one note and their is nothing driving him except for power. Again, kids movies don’t always have to be nuanced and show the various sides of a villain (also it was the 90s). I was surprised that Aladdin actually does struggle with being good enough and at one point actually questions setting the genie free as the lies of his true identity weigh him down. However, our hero doesn’t let us down and ultimately does the right thing.
This film deserves its status as one of the favorites of my childhood. I look forward to watching this film with my own kids one day and seeing if they will agree with childhood me, and if not then I get to enjoy this movie again anyway.