Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Aladdin (Blu-Ray)

Rating: ★½

It's been over 20 years since Disney first invited audiences on a magic carpet ride over Agraba. And even though traditional drawn animation has hit turbulent times, Aladdin is still flying high as one of the most beloved family films. (Sorry about all the flying puns!)

Diamond In The Rough
Aladdin was released in the middle of what has become know as Disney's second golden age. The Arabian rags-to riches folktale of a young thief called Aladdin who finds a genie. The Genie, who is comically brought to life by Robin Williams' vocal talents, turns Aladdin into a prince so that he can  win the heart of Princess Jasmine. Jafar the Sultan's sinister advisor is desperate to steal the throne and will do whatever it takes it stop Aladdin from getting in his way. It has all the elements of a brilliant classic Disney film: amazing scenery, catchy songs, a beautiful princess, an evil villain and of course a happy ending.

A Whole New World
Composer Alan Menken did some of his best work in Aladdin. The music helps to drive the story and is what made the film such a massive success. The Arabian twist on these musical theatre-style songs will transport you to exotic lands. None more so than the wonderfully uplifting A Whole New World - one of the most well known Disney songs of all times. It's a little on the cheesy side but a little cheese never hurt anyone and this is the best kind. The Genie's larger than life Vegas-style numbers 'Friend Like Me' and 'Prince Ali' make it no surprise Aladdin is soon to become Disney's next Broadway stage show.

Trouble In Agraba
Although everything seems magical and happy in the world of Disney, Aladdin has actually sparked a few controversial debates. Critics complained that some of the characters and more specifically the lyrics to the opening song 'Arabian Nights' played to derogatory Arab stereotypes. But sometimes I think cynics are simply reading too much into these films and also that Disney is an easy target because of its iconic place in popular culture. I can sympathise with them but I also commend Disney for at least attempting to explore different cultures in their films. Disney said themselves Aladdin was the first Hollywood film in decades to feature an Arab hero and heroine but I definitely don't think they would be portrayed with such a lack of cultural awareness now — especially the character of Jafar. The biggest problem for me was actually the cultural imperialism implicit in having all the good characters voiced with American accents and all the bad ones either with British or Arab accents.

Three Wishes
Robin Williams deserves a special mention for his incredibly funny and animated performance as the Genie. It was one of the first times a major star provided the voice for an animated character and was allowed to improvise around the script. Now with Jack Black in Kung Fu Panda and Mike Myers in Shrek this technique has become pretty commonplace. But in my opinion the Genie will always be the best.

The beautiful animation and background art in Aladdin is the perfect example of why Disney should return to this magical art form. The vibrant colour and rich texture are a treat for the eyes but sadly I don't think it's gonna happen any time soon.

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