There is some small part of me that wishes I just reviewed this show from memory. By and large, everything I remember about the movie remains true, I watched this movie often enough in my youth it largely burned itself into my brain. Despite that, the re-watch I just had for this review does kind of highlight some flaws that weren't apparent in my mind before this viewing. So I'm going to end up being fairly critical of one of my favorite Disney films of all time (I'm not sure how it will look once I finish these reviews, but off the top of my head it would be in my top three favorites).
Aladdin is the story of a street rat who dreams of becoming more than just some homeless guy roaming the streets. Paired with his little monkey Abu, they are constantly on the run from the guards, staying ahead of them with a mix of his agility and quick wit. A Disney character wanting more out of life than what they have is a running trend, but there are things about this that work a lot better than many other movies that came before it. Aladdin himself, for all his bravado, ends up being very insecure about this. He never really seems to feel like he can be anything more than a street rat when presented with the opportunity, everything starts to feel way over his head once he gets a taste of the world outside of the streets. He may be the same guy at the end of the movie, but you feel like there was some growth as a character by the end.
Jasmine, the movie's female lead, is a Princess who, like Aladdin, want's more out of her life than she has. Both characters, despite being on opposite ends of their lifestyle, feel like their lot in life is beyond their control. This is important because it makes for probably the most believable love story Disney has told to date. Because it's a single movie, it's always going to have the issue of feeling rushed, but because the two were given an easy-to-understand common ground it made it easy to believe the two fall for each other. Especially when you realize not only do they have that common ground, they both see something they want out of life in the other person.
That is where the plot kicks off and Aladdin gets tricked into finding a magical lamp for the movie Villain, Jafar. Even though he's a pretty one-note villain, the arrogant man obsessed with gaining more power, he works as a near-perfect foil for Aladdin. This is going to sound a bit odd, but hear me out, Jafar's greatest strength isn't his magic or position as Chancellor, his greatest strength is the same thing as Aladdin's, his mind.
Even the all-powerful genie isn't important in the fight between the two, at least not as more than any other weapon (He's more to the story than that, mind you, just for purpose of Aladdin Vs. Jafar). The majority of Jafar's plan to obtain the Lamp isn't him using his magic, it's him using his mind to manipulate those around him. Yes, his magic to manipulate the Sultan is relevant, but small compared to him pushing Aladdin to delve into the Cave of Wonders and find the lamp, something no magic was used for. And Aladdin, while very fast and agile, gets far more use out of his surroundings and circumstances to succeed than relying on that. Jafar vs. Aladdin is a battle of the minds, and the two of them exploiting the weaknesses of the other.
One thing I do need to point out though is the comedy relief in this movie, specifically the abundance of comedy relief characters. Abu, Iogo, the Genie, the Sultan, and the Guards. You see very little of the guards, but the comedy relief can start to feel a bit much after a while. It can work against the movie at times and start to make it feel padded. Genie, while funny and having been played by Robin Williams, is going to start to be dated to a lot of people if they didn't grow up with it due to how much of the humor is references to other things at the time. Most of them will likely be fine as just this zany showcase of random stuff the genie does to amuse himself, but that will only go so far. There is a bit too much of the comedy relief in this move when I don't think they needed that much, it can feel a bit distracting at times.
As I am writing this I am starting to just realize that the comedy is not a strong part of this movie. I think this is the movie that has tried to do the most comedy of any Disney Film I've revisited so far, but I just don't think it stands out that well. Thinking back on it, even my memories of this movie I barely recall any of the comedy bits. The Prince Ali number doesn't stick out in my mind for the jokes, but for Aladdin having fun with his now found wealth. A friend like me is more a great catchy number than a funny one, and the only thing I remembered vividly as being funny is 'Still I think he's rather tasty.
That said, I remembered 'A whole New World' fondly, Prince Ali Reprise as Jafar's brief villain song, and so many other dramatic moments. I am starting to wonder if the creators didn't think the love story would hold up on its own, and tried to fill in a lot of comedy to keep peoples attention. This is kind of funny because it's their best love story so far.
I won't harp on the animation, because if you've been following these reviews you already know it's fantastic. Pretty much any Disney movie looks fantastic. It has fantastic animation and art-style throughout, with the only real issue being Alladin, who is supposed to be a homeless guy, looks perfectly manicured and well kept, it's a little distracting once you notice it.
Even with some of my nostalgia being ruined concerning how funny I thought the movie was, everything else about this movie does hold up. It looks great, the characters are fantastic, and it stands as my favorite Disney love story. Definitely worth checking out.