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Our hero Aladdin is a street-smart peasant who, with one rub of a magic lamp, meets up with the most hip, hilarious and totally unpredictable Genie the screen has ever seen. But the evil sorcerer, Jafar, also craves the lamp's power. If Aladdin is to defeat him and win the love of princess Jasmine, he must learn to be himself - and that's one wish the Genie can't grant!
For more about Aladdin and the Aladdin Blu-ray release, see Aladdin Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on May 13, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Gilbert Gottfried, Charles Adler, Frank Welker, Linda Larkin
Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
» See full cast & crew
Aladdin Blu-ray Review
When you wish upon a lamp. . .
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, May 13, 2013
Disney's own corporate magic lamp had grown a bit tarnished over the years. The vaunted Mouse House helped to invent the long form animated film and then created one undisputed masterpiece after another, films so legendary they still resonate down the halls of film history: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Bambi and several other classics continue to delight children of all ages to this day. But there's little denying that the studio lost at least a little of its mojo during the 1950s, despite still churning out a number of high profile and highly regarded entries like Lady and the Tramp, a perhaps incremental decline that became much more precipitous in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, when even longtime Disney fans lamented the kind of cookie cutter animation style and less than inspired storytelling that many of Disney's animated efforts exhibited. Fortunes started reversing themselves with the release The Little Mermaid in 1989, quickly followed by Disney's huge triumph Beauty and the Beast, the first animated feature to ever snare an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. (As much as I personally love The Rescuers Down Under, which was released in between The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, for whatever reason it doesn't seem to be held in the same esteem as its two neighboring siblings.) Whatever mojo may have been lost in the decades between the 1940s and the 1990s was obviously back in full swing by the time Aladdin came along in 1992. The film was once again a gigantic hit for Disney, becoming the highest grossing movie of the year, and ultimately garnering several Oscar nominations as well as two statuettes for its score and its biggest hit song "A Whole New World". The film is a raucous entertainment, slyly subversive and self-referential due to voice actor Robin Williams' often manic contributions, but it also is a near perfect adventure and romance, one that appeals just about equally to males and females, the sort of broad demographic allure that Disney would sometimes struggle with in later animated offerings that seemed to be geared either mostly toward boys or girls.
While Beauty and the Beast may have been the critical darling of this particular era of Disney animated fare, Aladdin is quite appropriately more like the scrappy little brother who may have hyperactivity problems, not to mention attention deficit disorder, but who is undeniably lovable despite—or perhaps even because of—those "problems". Once the perhaps risky decision to cast Robin Williams as the Genie (as well as the Narrator) was made, the handwriting was on the wall for the film's ultimate tenor, for Williams' anarchistic approach to free association as he did his voice work created both opportunities and issues for the animators. As the commentary included on this Blu-ray makes clear, Williams was given free rein at many moments throughout his days in the recording studio, and the result is ungainly, undisciplined—and just flat out hilarious. There has probably never been another Disney film with this air of the unexpected, and it infuses all of Aladdin with a very contemporary breath of fresh air, something that had been missing for years (some might argue decades) from Disney animated fare and which even Beauty and the Beast never really had, either, despite its many pleasures.
Aladdin cribs elements from many different versions of the age old stories, including a dash of A Thousand and One Nights and the many versions of The Thief of Bagdad (when are we going to see the gorgeous Korda version on Blu- ray?). Aladdin is a street kid who pals around with his pet monkey Abu, a simian who aids Aladdin in his small scale crime spree of stealing food. Meanwhile, Princess Jasmine, who has spent her entire life tucked behind the imposing palace walls, wants to see what the real world is like, and escapes the protective glare of her father, the Sultan, venturing out into the tumultuous marketplace only to instantly get in trouble. Aladdin rescues her, of course, and true love would seem to be preordained, except that Jasmine is required to marry a Prince, and the Sultan has already picked out a suitable husband for her, with a marriage planned for a mere 72 hours in the future. Playing out against this star-crossed love scenario are the machinations of Jafar, the Sultan's Grand Vizier who is trying to get his hands on a magic lamp with contains a Genie. Jafar has his own animal sidekick, an imperious little parrot named Iago. Through a little bit of magic, Jafar discovers that only Aladdin has the goods to be able to enter the Cave of Wonders where the lamp is stored, and a plot is hatched.
Considering how many writers contributed to this troubled project (lyricist Howard Ashman died just as the film was getting off the ground, just one of many stumbling blocks that were encountered) and how many differed story elements are woven together in the film (as briefly outlined above), Aladdin remains one of the most effortlessly entertaining and surprisingly cohesive entries in the Disney animated canon. Bolstered by incredible voice work, not just from Williams but the likes of Jonathan Freeman (Jafar) and even Gilbert Gottfried (Iago), the film is easily one of the funniest entries in Disney's long and storied history. The film is also graced with a wonderfully integrated song score (Tim Rice picked up the pieces from the deceased Ashman and contributed some incredibly effective pieces, including the Oscar winning "A Whole New World"). Composer Alan Menken continued the winning ways he had already established with Beauty and the Beast, contributing a wonderfully melodic and evocative score that easily bridged pop, theater and Middle Eastern styles. Aladdin also is one of Disney's most impressive feats of animation from this era, with skillful (if relatively minimal) use of the then nascent CGI technology nicely melded with a traditional 2D hand drawn approach. Character designs are gorgeous, and the backgrounds are simply lustrous, with one of the most distinctive palettes from this era of Disney film.
Aladdin Blu-ray, Video Quality
Aladdin is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Disney / Buena Vista with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. This is a fantastic looking high definition presentation that offers beautifully saturated colors and nicely crisp line detail. The image is almost inerrantly sharp and crystal clear, though there are just a couple of moments of unexpected (relative) softness that creep in from time to time (look at the screenshot of the Genie's head erupting from Aladdin's body for a good example). The traditional cel and CGI animation elements are impeccably woven together and pop very nicely in this presentation, one that is almost sure to delight most videophiles.
Aladdin Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Aladdin features a great sounding lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that offers some wonderfully immersive moments right from the get go. One of the nicest things about this surround track is the unusually widely splayed musical elements (listen to how the finger cymbals reverbate through the side and rear channels in the opening number for a great example). The crowded marketplace scenes as well as some of the action sequences also provide ample opportunity for nice sounding foley effects. But even some of the dialogue scenes are smartly placed throughout the surrounds (when Williams' Genie manically flits here and there, his voice is very directionally placed, adding to the fun). Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range is quite wide.
Aladdin Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Aladdin Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Aladdin's U.S. Diamond Edition is rumored to be in the works but has not yet officially been announced, so for those who can't wait for this release on Blu-ray, this region free disc without any problematic PAL 1080/50i content is a fantastic opportunity. The Blu-ray offers spectacular video and audio and comes replete with some great supplementary material (albeit in standard definition). Highly recommended.
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