Aladdin (1992)

Rated: G
Length:  90 min.
Age: 6 and up         Commonsense Media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: villain Jafar is creepy and evil; the huge lion creature guarding the treasure is truly frightening; it devours a thief at the beginning, though this is not seen; in one scene Aladdin nearly drowns; villain’s magic in the climax at the end is pretty scary and huge – turning into an enormous snake and then an even bigger genie

Action: Aladdin is continually fleeing guards with swords – played for laughs but may be stressful; the scene when Aladdin’s in the cave is pretty heavy action-and-danger-wise (Indiana Jones-esque)

Bad Behavior: when the sultan is imprisoned Jafar’s parrot tortures him by force-feeding him crackers – this might be disturbing, or maybe just disturbing for adults!; Genie smokes a cigarette at one point

Sex: all females are scantily clad; a few kisses

Racism: many stereotypes of Middle-Eastern peoples and lifestyle; heroes sound American, while bad guys have Arabian accents

Language: very slangy; also name-calling: “stupid” “dumb” “idiot”

Interests: Arabian legends, magic, desert, folk tales, other cultures

Next: picture books of 1001 Arabian Nights, old movies like The Thief of Bagdad

A poor thief meets a princess. He is recruited by the evil sorcerer Jafar to enter a vast treasure cave guarded by a giant lion. Jafar only wants a little lamp from the cave, and plans to kill Aladdin when he gets it. However Aladdin ends up with the lamp… buried alive in the cave. A genie emerges to help him escape. For his next wish Aladdin wants to be a prince to impress the princess Jasmine. Masking his true identity is his plan, even though the Genie advises him to be more truthful. Jasmine finds out and is angry. Jafar tries to kill Aladdin so that he can wed the princess instead. When Jafar gets hold of the Genie, his ambition to rule knows no bounds, until Aladdin outwits him: seeking ultimate power Jafar turns himself into a genie and is shut up inside the lamp. In gratitude for his help, Aladdin sets his friend the Genie free.

A rather standard poor boy meets princess movie, plus lots of magic, a lamp and a genie, and a whole camel-load of fairly offensive Arabian stereotypes. (In one song is the line “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face/ it’s barbaric but hey, it’s home”. ) Film is high on action and moves mighty fast, never more so than when the Genie appears. The blue guy is voiced by Robin Williams, who was allowed to ad lib at supersonic speed in all directions, a Williams specialty. Visuals move along just as quickly as the words and gags, which I found it quite disorienting but my daughter didn’t seem to mind: she just coasted through the rapid-fire bits. Williams’ shtik is all impressions, references to other movies, tv shows and stars, from Groucho Marx and Ed Sullivan to Jack Nicholson.

Robin Williams may or may not be your cup of tea, but nothing could be more irritating than Gilbert Gottlieb as the evil Jafar’s sidekick parrot Iago. I swear that grating voice and harsh delivery made me want to run out of the room screaming. It’s an old Disney practice to include a humorous/bumbling henchman to soften the threat of the evil villain (and provide someone for the villain to explain his scheming to), but the sheer annoyance factor of Iago is so astronomical that one wishes the damn bird could have been cut from the whole film.

The language in Aladdin is very modern – slangy, hip and sarcastic, which may put some parents off. (Me.) And the songs are even more Broadway musical-esque than other Disney offerings. (Jazz hands!) For these reasons I’m not sure how this movie will age over time.

The heroine Princess Jasmine is refreshingly independent and strong-willed, however no matter how much she rejects the idea of marriage and submission to a husband, she still holds an affinity for wearing seductive, midriff-baring outfits. (Indeed, Commonsense Media points out that all the females in the film are scantily clad.)

Story themes seem to be about freedom and being able to make your own decisions (Jasmine), and telling the truth and being yourself (Aladdin).

In conclusion: Having a princess ‘of colour’ may be some kind of a step forward, but this film is still mired in Arab stereotypes. High levels of action, danger, and violence. Not for everyone.


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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