Warning: Contains spoilers***
The Disney film, “Aladdin” remains on my top favorite movie lists. From the characters, to the songs, to the story elements, it has done very well for me. I watched it when I was little and then again starting in college? Why did I go so many years without watching it? Let’s just say I went through a weird phase of avoiding certain Disney movies.
We all know the story. A young street urchin who has to steal to live falls in love with the princess. But by law, she can only marry a prince. With the help of the genie, Aladdin “becomes” a prince just to win the princess. Things do not go as planned.
I could spend an entire post summarizing the movie. But here I am going to point out what I liked and what I felt could have been better. First, I will begin with the strengths.
1: The plot and other story elements
Of course, any movie has to follow the classic plot structure in order to be released. What I admired about “Aladdin” is that it’s not only engaging, but has a strong plot focusing on the romance between Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. I also appreciated how each character had a goal that made them rounder and likable. Aladdin wanted to have a better life and win Jasmine. Jasmine wanted freedom and the rights to make her own choices. Jafar wanted to overthrow the sultan and become the ruler of Agrabah. The genie wanted freedom from the lamp. The tones that set the moods for the scenes were also done well. Tension happened at the right spots (such as the final battle between Aladdin and Jafar), as well as melancholy (like when Jasmine cries over Aladdin “going to die”) and the beautiful satisfactory moments (like when Aladdin frees the genie on his third wish).
One thing about the final battle scene I supported was how Aladdin was on his own to defeat Jafar. In some Disney movies, the main character has support from at least one other or works together with a group. In “Aladdin”, where the hero is on his own to overthrow the villain, it adds more growth and change to the hero. Now onto the next strength.
2: The genie’s character
I really loved Robin Williams as the voice of the genie. I heard the genie was based off Robin Williams’s comedy. A lot of references are hard to be picked up by children, but are easy for adults to understand. The movie references the genie did were great. I also liked when he pretended to be a female flight attendant and cheerleader. In both scenes he wore the same wig and I found that humorous. I heard that in the second movie (Return of Jafar) and the TV series, someone else voiced the genie. It’s the same guy who voices Homer Simpson. But I liked Robin Williams more for Genie. May Mr. Williams rest in peace.
3: Aladdin and Jasmine as a couple
Many people described their relationship as realistic, although there are a couple exceptions of when I found their actions unbelievable (like when they almost kissed right after meeting and Jasmine getting sad when she heard about Aladdin’s execution that obviously didn’t happen). Other than that, I liked how they first acted after leaving the market. Aladdin hesitated at times or behaved a little awkwardly (probably typical in the early stages of romance). I thought the ending of the movie with the short reprise of “A Whole New World” was very sweet and beautiful. For some reason, I have always been drawn to Jasmine and Aladdin as a couple ranked as my favorite.
Now onto the parts I felt could have been better.
1: Too predictable at times
I get that everything in a story needs to be important, if not at the current moment, then later. But I felt that “Aladdin” became too predictable at certain times. When Iago talks about stuffing crackers down the sultan’s throat, when Aladdin speaks about living in a palace, and the “Cosmic Power!” moments, are also examples of this. I know foreshadowing is essential in storytelling. But I felt that “Aladdin” kind of over did it.
2: The mystery of the people, animals, and props in the parade during the “Prince Ali” number: Where did they come from and where did they go after?
The genie dressed up Aladdin in prince attire. He also turned Abu into an elephant. But when he is creating the parade, we don’t get to see or know where the people, props, and animals all came from. Did Genie create them all from scratch? Did he borrow them from other places? A little of both? And after the parade is done, where did they all go? I get that the plot needed to move forward, but I felt that plot hole was too loose to end.
3: How does Iago know how to imitate others?
He mimicked Jasmine’s voice, both by repeating something she had said right before about when she’s queen, and tricking Aladdin with Jasmine’s voice just so he could give Jafar the lamp. He also knew how to speak and sound exactly like Jafar. That part of his character development goes unexplained.
4: Out of all the deadlines for a princess to be married, why make it her next birthday?
I found this to be very amateurish. That choice felt too random to me as if the creators didn’t put any thought into it. Most importantly, it feels too out of place for the story. Why couldn’t the deadline be something else, like a certain humble (and not festive) holiday, moon phase, or a date set by royal standards that was the same for every past prince or princess, regardless of birth dates?
While a birthday in the story does not have to be shown with hullabaloos, gifts, etc. (of course, that would have really detracted from the plot of “Aladdin”, even if there was conflict), it should be crucial enough that the story could not work without it. In “Tangled”, it is important, and so is it in “Sleeping Beauty”. But in “Aladdin” I just felt that it didn’t really belong. If you’ve seen “Tangled”, you saw how Rapunzel valued her birthday and wanted it to be enjoyable. She begged Mother Gothel to let her leave the tower and go see the lights that always appeared on her birthday. In “Sleeping Beauty”, Aurora’s sixteenth birthday plays a role to the plot and Maleficent’s goal (according to a plot summary I’ve read online).
But in “Aladdin”, after the sultan tells Jasmine that she must marry a prince by her next birthday, that specific choice ends there and doesn’t show significance after. Had the creators scrapped it and replaced with something else, either that can be treated as ordinary or something more relevant to the plot, it would have done nothing to the other story elements. In fact, in the Broadway production, the mention of that next birthday was actually cut. It was probably also scrapped entirely. I was glad they did that. Thankfully, it has been removed from the live-action remake in 2019.
All in all, I would still rate “Aladdin” 5 out of 5 stars. It is still a great movie for people of all ages that I would gladly recommend.