1992, PG, 90 min. Directed by John Musker, Ron Clements. Voices by Robin Williams, Scott Weinger, Linda Larkin, Lea Salonga, Jonathan Freeman.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 27, 1992

The folks at Disney see a new dawn on the horizon. It's the rebirth of the animated feature with a wealth of product from not only their own studio, but a host of other animation houses. After the smash success of The Little Mermaid a couple of years back and last year's Academy Award nomination for Beauty and the Beast, the Disney team is now poised for a grand slam with their latest, Aladdin. It's got all the ingredients: it's a timeless fairy tale spiced with just the right amounts of romance, comedy and adventure, the kids take right to it, their adult chaperones chuckle even louder and keep looking back over their shoulders at the screen as they accompany their charges to the bathrooms, and it features the can-seemingly-do-no-wrong Robin Williams as the voice of the Genie in a role most commentators agree he was born to play.

For Disney, this movie is a departure from their generally more classic, more physically grounded and realistic works. Aladdin looks more cartoony than most Disney projects and packs more jokes than a Borsht Belt tumler. The jokes appeal to all levels of humor but the merriment is so constant that no tastes feel slighted. The romance is simple and sweetly in touch with palpable human emotions and the villain is evil enough to be a real threat who can keep the channels of adventure wide open. At times the narrative action dances dangerously close to a chaotic spin-out level, but it always sobers up and respects its storyline. You've got stark elements here like Aladdin, the street urchin, who lives by his wits and a regimen of petty thievery and Jasmine, the princess, who is being forced to marry a man she does not love merely because he is a prince.

Then there are wonderfully magical elements and the pleasant music of Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast composers Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (who wrote the lyrics for three songs prior to his untimely death). Tim Rice is responsible for the lyrics of the other tunes. But most of all there's that Genie. Williams' shape-shifting, gag-spouting, celebrity-impersonating Genie is truly a hurricane in a bottle. His manic energy and hip humor are so exhilarating that the rest of the movie risks grinding to a halt whenever he's not onscreen. My only real complaint with Aladdin is the preponderance (about half-a-dozen) of if not quite homophobic, then perhaps what could be termed anti-swish jokes. In a film that especially seems to have gone out of its way to behave responsibly when it comes to its Arab stereotyping, this type of barb is uncalled for. Nevertheless, Aladdin's got what it takes to go beyond being merely one of the this holiday season's favorites to becoming a perennial.

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Aladdin, John Musker, Ron Clements

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