Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Aladdin.”
The Movie: “Aladdin”
Starring: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin
Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A kindhearted street urchin and a power-hungry Grand Vizier vie for a magic lamp that has the power to make their deepest wishes come true.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95 percent
Froemming: For years now, the JOE-DOWN has taken on many sacred cows of Hollywood, from big budget actions films, to indie darlings, beloved awful movies to (REDACTED) “Citizen Kane.” But one giant among Hollywood we have surprisingly never really tackled.
The House of Mouse.
And now, with Disney+, I figured it was time to knock old Walt’s empire down a peg. I decided to go with a movie I have not seen since I was in elementary school, about 27 years ago. I went with “Aladdin,” a movie that utilized the talents of Robin Williams to almost jaw-dropping levels of amazing.
But something strange happened to me while I watched. I had an almost Pavlovian response of wanting to vomit every time Aladdin spoke. His voice brought visions of nightmarish sweaters, wacky sit-com plotlines and catch phrases that have haunted my dreams for years now.
Brown, as I try to recover from this bit of news, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: Oh good, another case of white actors stealing roles from minorities. How dare you, Steve? How. Dare. You.
So am I a bad child of the ‘90s by not remembering much about this movie? Like, “Aladdin” and “Lion King” were the humongous Disney hits of my era. And yet, all the major plot points I remembered from this movie (like fighting through Agrabah and escaping the Cave of Wonders) was from the painstakingly difficult Sega Genesis game. Screw the guy on that link for not dying once in that run of the game.
But yeah, this movie seems like it’s universally liked. So let’s poke holes in it like we do every movie… except “Die Hard.” Because that movie is perfect.
While I stuff a moldy cracker in the mouth of a parrot, get us underway, Froemming.
Froemming: Well, the intro to this is something I did not remember and with good reason: It is some weird merchant trying to sell the viewers a lamp. And then proceeds to tell the story of a street rat named Rickety Cricket, no — wait, Aladdin. The character is Aladdin. And this merchant is never seen again, so right off the bat we have an unreliable narrator because he doesn’t bother coming back to us.
Brown: The opening lines and song for this movie are done by someone with the heaviest accent possible. They may as well have called him Apu and had him in the Kwik-E-Mart. My first note of this movie: “Great, scene one and we have a racist caricature in a Walt Disney movie.”
And when we get into the story, we see Jafar, our antagonist of the movie lead a common thief to the desert to the Cave of Wonder. The opening is a CGI tiger’s head which… it doesn’t hold up well, but it’s still miles ahead of that (REDACTED) shark in “Escape From LA.”
The thief meets an unceremonious end because the only person who can enter the cave has to be a diamond in the rough.
So, we’re determining a person’s worth by potential like an NFL team?
Froemming: Jafar’s sidekick is Iago, voiced by Gilbert Gottfried. I was at the first Minneapolis Wizard World Comic-Con, and Gilbert had a Q&A going on in the basement part. My now ex and her sister went to see some “Star Trek” or whatever nonsense, so I went to see the old host of USA’s “Up All Night.” And he was hilariously vulgar. And a mother made a scene saying children were there to see him because of this movie, which caused Gilbert to go tear into her and the kid for not liking his choice of words with even more colorful language I cannot repeat here. It was perhaps one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Brown: I forgot that Gilbert Gottfried voiced Iago until the bird’s first words came out. I was annoyed with the choice because Gottfried is (intentionally) grating.
But that story, Froemming… that story redeemed Gilbert Gottfried. So thank you. I hope that mom went to another convention to see Bob Saget because she loved his wholesome role in “Full House” only to get another rude awakening.
Froemming: We are then introduced to the hero of this move, Aladdin, who is stealing bread with his pet monkey, Abu. And the whole time I wondered if Aladdin got Abu from David Letterman.
So I am troubled that this movie taught children that stealing is a hero’s trait. Also, he lies a lot and lives in poverty. Aladdin is a Republican’s worst nightmare, mostly because he is probably a Muslim.
Brown: Yeah, he’s not a flawless hero. But I have to ask: Isn’t trying to kill a street rat for stealing a loaf of bread a tad bit excessive for the royal guard? Also, why is the royal guard going after Aladdin when stealing bread from a merchant isn’t a royal family matter?
Then again, Abu does, at one point during the chase, pull a sword at the royal guard. So I get the guard trying to murder the monkey.
Don’t worry, though, because Aladdin has a heart of gold when we see him hand the loaf of bread to a couple of starving children. Never mind that he could have split the loaf in half so three people and a monkey could be less hungry. Screw nobility!
Finally, we see Aladdin pining for a better life while staring at the royal palace from his abandoned house that has a penthouse view of Agrabah. Aladdin has the best view in the city! If that building really is abandoned, that seems like a prime candidate for regentrification.
Froemming: I am pretty sure Dick Cheney bombed the hell out of Agrabah to give the people their freedom. So that prime real estate is probably rubble now.
Now, we are introduced to some rich people problems when we head to the kingdom and find the Sultan is having issues marrying off his daughter, Jasmine, to complete strangers. I have always found arranged marriages to be an odd concept and it seems Jasmine does too, because she uses her tiger to bite the butts of her potential suitors.
Jasmine, you see, isn’t free. She is in the gilded cage, and wants to experience life.
Brown: I will never turn down a time in a review to use Queen to bring up a point: Jasmine wants to break free!
Froemming: Well, let me clue you in on what is out there, Jasmine. Nothing but pain, poverty and monkeys stealing apples. You are not missing out on anything.
But alas, she decides to make a jailbreak!
And now she is out there in the real world.
Brown: I got a question about the royal family. So the Sultan had Jafar as the grand vizier, his most trusted advisor. … Sultan, do you NOT see how CLEARLY evil the man is? He hypnotizes you several times in this movie so you can do his bidding! Even Stephen Miller isn’t this evil and he’s a fascist piece of (REDACTED).
Froemming: I often wondered the same about Nazi Germany. I mean, the Nazis had skulls and shit on their jewelry and wore black and red. This is just the looks, let alone all the racism and killing and whatnot. I never believed the Germans had no idea what was going on. Nobody is that stupid.
Anywho, Jasmine sees some starving kids and steals an apple for them. And this is when her privilege is checked, because she has no money to pay for it. She doesn’t even know the concept of money, which leads me to think she was only partially faking being a dunce when Aladdin swoops in to save her here.
Also, cutting off people’s hands for stealing. We should bring that back.
Brown: Cutting people’s hands off is a little much. I’m all for cheater’s justice in Vegas, though!
So that leads to another chase scene where Jasmine, Aladdin and Abu escape with apples. They get back to Aladdin’s “house” and they go on about not being able to live the lives they want. Aladdin wants to know what it’s like to live in luxury while Jasmine explains her first-world problems.
Froemming: All Jasmine needs now is to read “On The Road” so she can fulfill her Kerouac dreams of being a bum.
Brown: After seeing that Aladdin is the diamond in the rough he needs to get the magic lamp, Jafar arranges to have our hero arrested. Jasmine tries to stop this but apparently the will of the grand vizier is more important than the princess? I dunno, because we don’t have a monarchy in these UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! EAT IT, ENGLAND! USA! USA! USA!
Froemming: No, we have a very stable genius in charge!
Then, Jafar tells the Sultan that Aladdin has had the King’s Justice and is now dead as a doornail. But this is a lie, because Jafar then dresses like a crazy old man to free Aladdin from his cell. This seems like an overly-complicated plan. He could have just found the street rat and said “here is some gold. Go into that giant sand tiger’s mouth and get me this magic lamp.” Sure, he may sound crazy, but at least it is a much easier plan with fewer risks involved.
But no, we go with the super odd complex plan. And they sneak out of the prison in the dead of night to enter said sand tiger’s mouth, which is a sentence that reads like a lyric from The Doors’ most acid-drenched years.
Brown: Yeah, those are the kind of lyrics I’d expect from The Lizard King.
So yeah, Aladdin enters a sand tiger’s mouth and is explicitly told to take the lamp and ONLY the lamp.
It goes reasonably well at first. Aladdin and Abu show restraint. And hey, they befriend a magic carpet that has more personality than the actor who played Aladdin in the remake!
But as they reach the end of their sand tiger journey, Abu gets dragged into the muck of avarice when he sees a giant ruby. Just as Aladdin does his best Indiana Jones by grabbing the lamp, Abu lunges for the ruby, which infuriates the sand tiger and now we have a grand escape that, honestly, holds up pretty well. Though I was caught a little off guard by the sand tiger referring to Aladdin, Abu and the carpet as “infidels.”
Froemming: Aladdin and Abu, sure that was weird. But I can see that magic carpet being an infidel in the eye of the giant sand tiger.
*Note to self, sell above sentence to Mastodon for use in one of their songs.
Jafar reveals himself before he allows Aladdin to die, but somehow dropped the important magic lamp in the process, which I mean, come on Jafar, what is this, amateur hour?
Brown: Well, I think it was Abu who stole the lamp from Jafar before falling back into the Cave of Wonder.
So while Jafar goes and deals with his monkey bite wound, Aladdin, Abu and Carpet have to figure out how to escape this tomb of a cave. But as it turns out, they didn’t take no ordinary lamp!
Froemming: Your double-negatives are confusing me.
They took a magic lamp with a genie that can grant magical wishes and performs pop culture characters that no one asked for and kind of dates the movie!
I will say that Robin Williams as genie works well for this flick. His manic energy that didn’t work for me in “Patch Adams” resonates better, I think, as an animated character.
Plus, “You Ain’t Never Had A Friend Like Me” is a catchy tune. See Froemming, I’m not the only one ramming double negatives down your throat!
Froemming: I have seen many Robin Williams movies. Joe Brown, you are no Robin Williams.
Yes, I loved his performance here. It is perfect for his comedy stylings, which are all over the place which is perfect for my TV-destroyed attention span. I could not imagine someone else in this role, even though after Disney ignored many of Williams’ requests for doing the movie and he refused to return, they got Dan Castellaneta to do it. Sorry, Homer Simpson, you are no Robin Williams.
The Genie offers Aladdin three wishes, though there are some restrictions. Thanks a lot, Obama.
No wishing for more wishes. He won’t kill anyone. He can’t make people fall in love and he can’t bring back the dead. So, what fun is having a Genie who can’t do what most people would wish for? He is a useful as a three dollar bill.
Brown: I mean, paying off my debt and living somewhere bigger than a studio apartment would be nice. But if Genie can’t help me with my dating life then I guess it is a waste of time.
But, Aladdin isn’t a cynic like you and I, so after conning Genie to get everyone out of the Cave of Wonder without blowing a wish, Aladdin wishes to become a prince. See, according to Agrabah law, only a prince can wed Princess Jasmine. So even though they were flirting and being all chummy as street rats before, Aladdin can’t even get into the room without royal credentials. Dude, just have a bunch of money and get yourself into the room. That’s how U.S. politics work.
Froemming: At least this Minnesotan royalty can!
So Genie makes him a prince, turns Abu into an elephant and they march upon the kingdom as royalty.
But Jafar and Iago have other plans. If Jasmine doesn’t decide on a prince, she will marry this creepy older man who hangs around with a wise-cracking parrot.
Brown: “Aladdin” joins “Deep Blue Sea” as JOE-DOWN movies that feature main characters whose only friend is a talking parrot. Jafar leads a sad existence.
Froemming: Well, Aladdin throws a wrench into this plan by showing up and wowing the Sultan, who is sometimes hypnotized and sometimes not. It got a bit confusing at times.
Aladdin wows the Sultan, but can’t break through to the princess because in her eyes, he is just another doofus wanting to marry her for her wealth. She is 50/50 correct here.
Now, Aladdin does not know what to do next. Genie tells him to just tell her the truth. If telling the truth is stupid to Donald Trump, then it is stupid to Aladdin as well, so he decides woo Jasmine with a good old fashioned…
Brown: I was very concerned over Jasmine getting frostbite or hypothermia during this carpet ride. They’re flying in the clouds at high speeds and Jasmine is wearing a crop top. Let her at least grab a coat, Aladdin.
Quick aside but I wrote this in my notes around this time: Aladdin has immaculate teeth for a supposed street rat.
Froemming: They all do for an era when dental hygiene was not a thing. They should all be in the Big Book of British Smiles.
Brown: The Steppenwolf date goes well for Aladdin and Jasmine as they seal it with a kiss. But that bliss is ended rather quickly as the royal guard, under Jafar’s orders, abduct Aladdin, tie a weight around his ankle and throw him in a body of water to drown. About to fall into unconsciousness, Aladdin somehow rubs the lamp and Genie flies him to safety, using the second wish I guess? I dunno, it’s unclear to me.
So Aladdin comes back to the palace and he, Jasmine and the Sultan confront Jafar on trying to kill the prince. Because you know, if Aladdin were a real prince, killing him would have been a declaration of war in whatever country he was from.
Seriously, between this and saying he beheaded Aladdin earlier because he thought he kidnapped Jasmine, Jafar is a pretty bad grand vizier.
Froemming: He’d fit right in with the Trump administration!
Jafar makes a break for it through a smoke bomb. Why the royal guard doesn’t check his room, where he a Iago are, is a real mystery to me. But hey, Aladdin and his good-time buddies saved the day!
Except, again, nobody bothered looking for Jafar in his room. Where he is with Iago plotting their next move: Steal the lamp. It is this kind of simplicity they should have just followed from the gate, it would have saved them a lot of embarrassment and whatnot.
Brown: And the plan goes into action in probably one of the worst days in Aladdin’s life. He’s worried the princess would reject him if he doesn’t keep up the prince facade. He reneged on his promise to Genie that he would free him with the final wish. He insulted elephant Abu. Just a bad scene for Aladdin.
And then he gets duped by a parrot. Jafar now has the lamp and Jafar uses his first two wishes on becoming sultan and becoming the most powerful sorcerer in the world. That means putting the palace on a cliff (?) and forcing Jasmine into her version of the Princess Leia slave outfit by… wearing red, or something?
Also, Aladdin is sent to what looks like a frozen wasteland where, like Jasmine, frostbite/hypothermia has to be a concern. He’s in the bitter cold wearing nothing but a vest up top and no shoes. But nope, Aladdin and Abu survive the cold AND a near crushing from a palace tower while trying to free Carpet. It’s time to fly back to Agrabah with, AGAIN, no protection from the wind and elements.
Froemming: How did they avoid that Whole New World of lost limbs due to frostbite?
Brown: Aladdin tries to steal the lamp back by having Jasmine try to seduce Jafar. It naturally doesn’t work and honestly, I think it was done because Aladdin is a cuckold.
Froemming: This is the second review you have used the term “cuck” and I am starting to suspect you are visiting MAGA Reddit chatrooms.
Brown: Look man, 4chan brings up some interesting points.
(NOTE: that comment was smothered in sarcasm)
Froemming: But Aladdin tricks Jafar using reverse psychology or whatever. He says he will never be as powerful as Genie because Genie gave him all his powers. So his third wish is to become a genie, which is pretty stupid but, you know, this is a man who spends all his time with a wise-cracking parrot.
Jafar becomes a genie and life comes at him fast when he is then shackled and thrown into a lamp, forever trapped in wish-giving servitude. And he drags Iago with him, because he loves the sound of the bird’s voice.
Aladdin decides his third and final wish is to free Genie from that very particular servitude. And, finally free, Genie begins sporting a Goofy hat that probably costs $175 at Disney World and vows to travel the world like Jules in “Pulp Fiction.”
Brown: Couple questions here:
- How did the palace and Agrabah as a whole get put back the way it was when it wasn’t wished that way? Jafar becoming a Genie shouldn’t erase what he did.
- So after being free, Genie is just gonna stay blue?
- And after being freed, Genie gets to keep his powers? He’s packing a suitcase he conjured up out of thin air, he’s floating and still able to do all his usual gags. This is not ‘Nam, movie; there are rules!
- Forgot to bring this up earlier, but how many generations of Wilhelms are there since there was a Wilhelm Scream when Jafar moved the palace up the cliff.
Froemming: I am going to answer your concerns the same way Michael Bay did with Ben Affleck’s concerns with “Armageddon.” Because shut the (REDACTED) up, that’s why.
Let’s ride our magic carpets down to recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Sure, it is a decent Disney movie that is made better with Robin Williams.
Brown: Absolutely. It’s a fun Disney movie. Watch this and take a hard pass at the recent remake.