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On Nov. 25, 1992, Disney unveiled Aladdin in theaters nationwide, where it would go on to gross $504 million globally and be nominated for five Oscars at the 65th Academy Awards, winning in the song and score categories. The Hollywood Reporter‘s original review is below.
Abracadabra. The magical, the mystical, the mysterious — all those powers that lurk within movies but are rarely tapped are unleashed in Disney’s latest magnificent animation, Aladdin. A magic carpet ride of visual delights, this cutting-edge, old-fashioned entertainment should soar into blockbuster orbit.
Blending the best of computer animation technology with nuts-and-bolts storytelling, Aladdin is a splendor of cinematic riches. Down to flesh tones, it’s the story of a poor street urchin, Aladdin (voice by Scott Weinger), who falls in love with Jasmine (Linda Larkin), a beautiful but insular princess who lives a virtual prison-like existence within her father’s palace.
There’s a law within this kingdom that she must marry a prince, and her time is running out — she must marry within three days. Her father, the Sultan (Douglas Seale), like most high potentates, is victim to an unscrupulously wicked adviser, Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), who has lecherous eyes on Jasmine and the kingdom, and guards against suitable matchups.
But fate smiles kindly on Aladdin and his pet monkey (Frank Welker) as he comes upon a magic lamp, rubs it and out erupts a wish-granting genie (Robin Williams). Bottled up for 10,000 years, this is one hyperactive genie. Try to imagine Williams at warp speed — you can’t. One nanosecond, he’s a Vegas crooner, then he’s Arsenio, De Niro, William F. Buckley Jr., Ethel Merman, Jack Nicholson — his transformational powers are head-spinning.
To call Genie and his rollicksome routine a showstopper is not quite fair, given this film’s rich textures and vivacious movement, but Williams’ presto-chango powers, which have been in a sense always bottled up by the confines of the stand-up format or standard movie boundaries, are wondrously liberated in this zesty animation. Through the protean powers of the Genie form, Williams has transcended himself — found a medium for his high-speed, hyperkinetic abilities.
Winding the narrative around the winning boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl formula, the screenwriters (Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio) have laden Aladdin with a treasure trove of witty asides and quirky garnishments. Oddball sidekicks, from Aladdin’s monkey (who seemingly went to the Donald Duck school of elocution) to Jafar’s parrot (which can go beak to beak with Joe Pesci), are comic delights.
Even the inanimate objects are packed with personality: Aladdin’s magic carpet pulses, folds and unravels with distinctive character. Directors Musker and Clements, and their splendid teams of animators, have not allowed one dull character hue to dissipate this lively, shapely entertainment. At times, the screen seems three-dimensional, so full and layered is the animation.
On a sound dimension, Aladdin also soars. The characters’ voices are terrifically idiosyncratic: Larkin as the spirited princess, Freeman as the evil adviser and Welker and Gilbert Gottfried as the monkey and the parrot, respectively. This fantastic filmic ride is whisked away by Alan Menken’s liltingly lively score and carried to full-bodied dimension by its splendid songs, creations of Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. — Duane Byrge, originally published on Nov. 4, 1992
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