Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, Douglas Seale
Written by: Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 90
Date: 11/11/1992

Aladdin (1992)

3 Stars (out of 4)

A Diamond in the Rough

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This follow-up to Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991) lacks the greatness of its predecessor but is nevertheless a satisfying little gem. It has a unique patchwork quality consisting of effective and not-so-effective elements, mostly because of the great songwriter Howard Ashman's death during production. Disney inexplicably hired Tim Rice to work with Alan Menken filling in the remaining songs, and their dreary, soulless sound clashes sharply with Ashman and Menken's lively, jovial numbers. (Even worse, one of the Rice songs, "A Whole New World" went on to win the Oscar.)

Robin Williams steals the movie as the voice of the genie, improvising all kinds of gags (which have aged surprisingly well) at top speed. But the leading players can't match him and the story subsequently moves in fits and starts. (Only Gilbert Gottfried, another stand-up comic, comes close to him as the villain's parrot sidekick.) True to its story, the film itself really is a "diamond in the rough."

Disney's 2004 double-disc DVD special edition offers plenty of kid-friendly extras, but insults adult viewers who may have seen the film in its original run, going so far as to hire flash-in-the-pans Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey and Clay Aiken to perform songs. In early 2005, Disney released a special two-pack featuring the straight-to-video sequels The Return of Jafar and Aladdin and the King of Thieves. These are of distinctively lesser quality and are intended for die-hard Aladdin fans only.

In 2015, Disney released a Blu-ray edition; due to a technical snafu on my part, I was unable to procure a review copy. However, the Disney people were kind enough to send me a digital copy, which has all the bonus features, including a wonderful 8-minute collection of Robin Williams outtakes. It's hard not to laugh (and cry) while watching these. From what I can see on my computer, the picture and sound are quite crisp, and fans should enjoy this new upgrade.

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