I will never forget the first time I watched "Aladdin", I was with a group of friends waiting in the airport for the plane that would take us from Orlando to Paris at the time when "Aladdin" was the 'big thing' in the USA while some previews of "The Lion King" were starting to screen. "Aladdin" will forever be associated to that wonderful week I spent in Disneyland, and it's only fitting if the movie is my favorite Disney film, slightly edging-out "The Jungle Book".
I know I can get all rational in this review, analyzing what makes "Aladdin" such an appealing film and using the expected words of 'Disney Renaissance' and a comparison with the glorious Best Picture nominee predecessor. I can also talk about the animation, the music, the extraordinary multi-vocal performance of Robin Williams as Genie
but I don't feel like getting rational. I love the film for personal reasons that are essentially due to the excellent timing of this film in its penetration of my pre-adolescent life. "Aladdin" took a forever cherished place as one of the last treasures that enriched my childhood even playing a pivotal role in the way I would start enjoying cartoons.
"Kid's day in the USA!" was the motto of the week that was celebrating the 65th birthday of Mickey Mouse, and for a kid who never traveled outside his country, going to Disneyland was the most unexpected destination, the most extraordinary trip I would never have dared to dream of. This is when I discovered "Aladdin", through the 'Prince Ali' fanfare endlessly performed during the parades, through the films' images aired on TV; something was strangely attracting me to the film. And I guess the fact that I knew the story helped a lot: I grew up with a French cartoon from 1969, titled 'Aladin and the Magic Lamp' recorded in an 80's videocassette, a movie I can recite (and sing) by heart, and there was also an obscure Manga 'Aladdin' film we watched at school before the summer holidays.
Needless to say I was already familiar with the story, and seeing it translated into Disney language was something I was excited to see. Would they talk about Aladdin's deceased father Mustapha? Would he live with his mother? What kind of roles would Genie play? Well one thing matters apart from these questions: I knew the story and I could understand the film even if I didn't speak English at that time
it wouldn't have helped me anyway because the airport was very noisy, so I just sat on my luggage, eating some candies, and I could understand who was who and what was everyone's scheme: obviously, Aladdin wanted to be a prince to marry the princess and Jafar to marry the princess to become the prince, and between them, the Genie would come to fulfill their dreams. So, I saw the film and I loved it.
And for one year, before I would see it again, the music of 'Pince Ali' and 'A Whole New World' was the musical remembrance of that magical week in Disney World. And when I saw it again, it took another dimension: I finally understood the subtleties of the stories, I learned all the songs after repetitive viewings, and for months and months, I was transported by the 'Prince Ali' parade and its climactic conclusion and the romantic 'A Whole New World' and its beautiful opening, when Jasmine jumps on the carpet and the zoomed-out Rajah looks smaller and smaller, watching from the balcony. I saw the film so many times during my pre-teen years that I would never forget the first sensations it immersed me into, with an unexpected awkward one.
I must confess that Jasmine was one of my first movie crushes and my idea of the ideal woman as a kid, I don't know why but the way she looked during the 'love at first sight moment' hypnotized me and the moment where I always melt occurs in the carpet ride, when Aladdin gives her the apple, when you understand that she understood who the Prince Ali is, there are no words to describe how incredibly sexy she looks at that very moment. The crush didn't last of course, and as I grew older and was disappointed with the 'Return of Jafar' sequel and the TV series, my interest for "Aladdin" declined and it was reduced to 'kid's stuff I used to like'.
And then 10 years later, as a student, I saw the film again on my computer, eating a pizza, and something magical happened when the 'Whole New World' music started during the closing credits, my heart was inundated by a nostalgic torrent, so immense that I couldn't stop crying because it reminded me of the privileged place the movie occupied once in my heart. The magic was back, and whenever I was spending a good time with friends, we were having fun listening to these old Disney songs, and the clip of 'A Whole New World' was a must-see
and how glad I was to discover that I wasn't the only one who 'liked' Jasmine.
I feel so concerned by this film and so deeply attached to it, that I don't want to spoil this review with critical or ecstatic reviews, the film is just thrilling, romantic, adventurous, and features certainly the greatest cast of supporting characters without it being the counterpart of a dull hero or heroine, there's not a single minute of the film that seems pointless and wasted and certainly not with a character like Genie. That's the best I could do to rationally 'explain' my love for "Aladdin".
But maybe because loving a film can also depend on external factors that influence your judgment, in the case of "Aladdin", everything contributed to make this my favorite Disney film ... for sentimental reasons yes, but who ever said they were wrong?