Sunday, August 26, 2012

Aladdin and the King of Thieves (Movie Review)

     Disney’s "Aladdin" was one of my favorite animated movies that I grew up with as a kid. To this day, it’s still a fun film to watch, certainly one of Disney’s finest. Of cores like all successful Disney movies it had a sequel called "The Return of Jafar" and again like most Disney sequels, it sucked. It was a terrible fallow up to a great movie and it somehow launched an Aladdin T.V. show that for the most part was a decent show. Then not long after all this, there was another sequel called "Aladdin and the King of Thieves", and to my surprise, it wasn’t that bad a sequel. In fact, for what ever it's worth, I think this movie is the absolute best of Disney's forced direct to video squeals

    The story was based off the tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves from the 1001 Arabian Nights. Just a fun bit of trivia, “Ali Baba and the forty thieves” are mentioned at the beginning of the song “Friend Like Me” from the first Aladdin movie. Now, instead of making this another love story between Aladdin and Jasmine, this is a story about a struggle between father and son. This is how you make a sequel work, creating new story elements that weren’t part of the first film, developing the characters further and it makes for a fitting conclusion to the Aladdin series. In this film, we learn that Aladdin has a father named Cassim who soled his sole to crime and has rallied his own team of pillagers and thieves to gain riches. However, once his son comes back into his life, he goes through a personal struggle between what’s more important to him, wealth or family. It’s a basic story but done relatively well. Aladdin and his father have good chemistry, the story holds your interest and there’s some fun scenes. On the grounds of a direct to video movie, the animation is quiet good, it’s not up to par with the first film but there’s plenty of detail in the locations and at times it can be very colorful. 

   All the classic characters from the first film are back and while they aren’t nearly as fun as they were before, there at least given some new traits to make them feel fresh. Jasmine for example is as far away removed from a helpless princess that needs rescuing as you can possibly get, she’s always putting up a fight and is never a basic damsel in distress. However, her design looks kind of different from the first two films, I can’t quiet put my finger on it but at times (especially in her wedding dress) she looks like a different character. At least she’s not as slutty as before and has a much better wardrobe this time around.

   The Genie is once again voiced by Robin Williams but unfortunately, he goes way over board in this film. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this character in the first movie, and I love Robin Williams, but there was more subtlety to his jokes and the character contributed a lot to the film. In this movie, he contributes nothing and is just one really long running joke. Also, I think this film holds a record for the most movie references and pop culture references that I’ve ever seen in a kids movie, all done by Genie of cores. You could have one heck of a drinking game for every movie reference in this film. There’s one moment when he morphs into Mrs. Doubtfire from the 1993 comedy of the same title. Think about this, Robin Williams as the Genie is imitating Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire, that’s outstanding. Genie transforms into a parody of Forrest Gump during the wedding fight scene and says "Mama always said, 'Magic is magic does”. At the very end of the credits, the Genie appears in front of the black screen and says, "Game Over, man! Game Over!", which is a spoof of an identical line by the character Private William Hudson from the movie Aliens played by “Bill Paxton”, like kids will understand that.  During the song "Father and Son", Genie references The Jetsons and recreates the opening to The Brady Bunch T.V. show. The "security system" set up by the Genie has the classic Cylon "sweep eye" found in Battlestar Galactica and it’s also in the form of the character “ED – 209” from the movie Robocop. There are also sense of him morphing into “Rocky Balboa” from the Rocky movies, “Rambo” from the First Blood movies and even “The Godfather” from The Godfather movies. I don’t know about anyone else but I never saw those movies when I was 6 years old and I can’t think of any other 6 year old that did. There’s also a million other Disney movie references, but it would take all day to list them off. Now while the Genie is over used in this film, he dose still have some funny lines, including some of the best adult jokes to ever be subtly hidden in a childrens film.  

    There’s also a new villain named “Sa'luk”, who’s actually kind of cool. He’s not as great or classic as Jafar but he’s a good follow up. Sa’luk’s the seconded in command of the 40 thieves and wants to be leader over Aladdin’s father, he’s fast, dangerous and equipped with “Wolverines” claws just in a gold version. He’s also get's his own villain song called “Are you in or out”, which was awesome when I was a kid but got less good as I grew up.  There’s another villain song called “Welcome to the Forty Thieves” which is nothing short of annoying. The film does at least build to a relatively good climax, which features one of my favorite villain deaths from an animated movie.                 

    Most of the songs in this movie are pretty lame and forgettable. The opening song called “There's a Party Here in Agrabah” goes on for way to long and its chalk foul of dull lyrics and an annoying melody. The worst song is “Father and Son”, it means well but it just comes off as extremely annoying in the end. There is one relatively good song called “Out of Thin Air”, sung by Aladdin and Jasmine and while it’s basically the pore mans version of the “whole new world song” from the first film, it’s still okay. The instrumental music is really good, it sounds like the exciting kind of adventure music you would here in a classic Sinbad adventure. At the end of the film we get a Reprise of the song “Arabian Nights” and is once again sung by the peddler seen at the beginning of the first Aladdin. This is where everything started, so now the tale has come full circle.

   Like I said, the strength that cares this film above most terrible Disney sequels is the father/ son relationship, because you’re never sure how it’s going to turn out. There’s a moment when Cassim seems ready to give up his life of crime and be there for Aladdin on his wedding but his greed gets the better of him and is arrested. This leads to an awesome little scene of Aladdin dressing up like his father, braking him out of prison and then after getting into a fight with the palace guards, he gets his mask torn and his identity is revealed. It’s a strong moment that really makes you feel that Aladdin has now become an outlaw and disgrace to the family he was about to join. Now all he has left is the father that betrayed him. While it’s not a super complex relation, it still works well in the story. 

      Overall, it’s a good sequel, it gives the characters a little more dimension, provides a fun little adventure for kids and builds on Aladdin’s story. It may not be as great as the first film but compared to how bad Disney sequels have been, this one stands out and is good enough on its own. I give Aladdin and the King of Thieves 3 stars.

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