Best Movie Ever?: “Aladdin”

I hate the end of the summer. Doesn’t matter that I’m out of school or living in Los Angeles where it’s as eternally sunny as the set of Oklahoma!, but autumn means the death of whimsy and the rebirth of darkness. That’s all! Sigh! I refuse to cope. As a tribute to the trillions of children marching back to homeroom this year, I’m toasting one of my favorite kiddy movies ever and the definitive Disney caper, Aladdin.

Surely there are plenty of you who prefer the giddiness of The Little Mermaid or the majesty of Beauty and the Beast, but for me, Aladdin is Walt’s definitive latter-day exhibition of style and chutzpah. And it’s effing funny. And almost every character is lovable and openly crazy. Without further ado, let’s investigate the five key reasons why Aladdin may just be the best movie ever.

1. Aladdin is the finest Disney prince.

Artwork at right by David Kanewa

Let’s get the nitty-gritty out of the way first: Aladdin is a f*cking fine piece of animated ass. His aw-shucksy social skills are endearing, his street smarts are sexy, and he can also sing. He’ll steal a loaf of bread for you and another loaf of bread for some poor kids. He’s swarthy enough to pull off a shock-white robe. And he shows off his body rather unassumingly, which is kind. Though he’s a self-proclaimed “street rat” who finds a magic lamp and uses the genie within (Robin Williams) to leverage a relationship with periwinkle nightwear queen Jasmine (of the glorious, pastry-colored kingdom of Agrabah), his sinister grin and fancy footwork compensate for his slight douchiness. Also: He was voiced by Scott Weinger, a.k.a. DJ’s boyfriend Steve on Full House, and if that fact’s not a seismic aphrodisiac to you, we’ll never get along. This brings me to my next point…

2. Best vocal talents ever for a Disney flick?

And now, a list of the supreme Disney voice artists: George Sanders as Shere Khan in The Jungle Book. Peggy Lee as almost everyone in Lady and the Tramp. Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor in The Rescuers. The untouchable Betty Lou Gerson as Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians. And from Aladdin, Lea Salonga as Jasmine’s singing voice, Gilbert Gottfried as the squawking parrot Iago, and Robin Williams as the unforgettable genie. At 85 minutes, Aladdin is a remarkably swift flick, and I think that has something to do with the quality of its voice work, particularly Robin Williams’ genie, who bursts with vigor and pop culture references (including a killer Jack Nicholson impersonation) while managing to exude a real soul. When a certain villain (whom we’ll discuss momentarily) takes control of the genie and Robin Williams morosely mutters, “Sorry, kid,” it is heartbreaking. And it transmits just as much personality as his two gigantic songs, “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali.” It’s rare that such a well-known performer’s personality can translate so well to animation, and with Williams, it’s just bizarre that it took until 1992 for the synergy to occur. It’s fair to say it’s the man’s best performance to date, wouldn’t you agree? Besides, of course, RV.

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