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Aladdin (Special Platinum Edition) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 October 2004

Aladdin (Disney Special Platinum Edition)
Walt Disney Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: G
starring: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, Douglas Seale
Theatrical release year: 1992
DVD release year: 2004
film rating: Five Stars
sound/picture rating: Four Stars
reviewed by: Mel Odom

Since its debut in 1992, Disney fans eagerly awaited the release of “Aladdin” on DVD. In true Disney fashion regarding one of their mega-hits, the House of Mouse delivers a jam-packed two-disc collection that contains the movie in widescreen, boosted to 5.1 Dolby Digital, with extras and games galore.

The most shining performance in the whole movie is Robin Williams’ portrayal of the genie of the lamp. Although the story still flows in a more or less formulaic style and gets pretty much from Point A to Point B in a tidy and quick fashion, the genie proves to be the wild card. During “A Diamond In The Rough: The Making of ‘Aladdin’,” viewers are treated to comments and some information concerning Williams’ characterization of the mystical being with the ability to grant the possessor of the lamp three wishes. Williams performed the script he was given, but went way beyond anyone’s expectations when he started ad-libbing dialogue and responses, outlining whole skits that could conceivably be shoehorned into the movie. In 1992, Williams was a household word owing to his performances in “Mork and Mindy,” “The World According to Garp,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Dead Poets Society” and “Hook.” He accepted scale payment, the lowest pay that a SAG actor could legally accept, to do the voice of the genie. The movie changed drastically as a result of Williams’ performance.

“Aladdin” spins out of the colorful story of a young thief making his way in violent Al-Aqbar who ultimately achieves the means to make all of his dreams come true. Unfortunately, dealing with that goal proves much more costly than simply achieving it.

The movie opens up with one of the great musical scores Disney has become known for. The wind whistles across the desert from right to left, running through the front end of the surround sound system while echoing in the rear speakers. (This is actually one of the better effects of the revamped audio portion of the 1992 release.) Cymbals clang and the whoosh of flames sound like they’re in the room with the viewer. The narrator yanks his trade items from his pack with a multitude of clangs and bangs that echo through the surround sound system. Many stories and movies use the convenience of the narrator, including “The Thief of Baghdad” which came out in 1940 and established much of the story and the pacing presented in “Aladdin,” but the narrator is never seen or heard from again after the opening chapter on the disc. Kids generally won’t pick up on the dropped thread, but it is there.

Chapter 2 introduces the evil advisor, Jafar, and his equally evil parrot, Iago. The rustle and tinkle of magic filters through the surround sound system. The crash of the rising sand dunes in the desert thunder through the speakers. Again, the whoosh of flames as Jafar opens up the Cave of Wonders sounds authentic. As the thief coerced by Jafar into attempting to take the lamp of the genie enters the Cave of Wonders, the roaring voice of the cat’s head entrance sounds loud and menacing.

Chapter 3 picks up Aladdin’s story as he and his pet monkey Abu successfully steal breakfast while fleeing from the Sultan’s guards. The action is truly over-the-top derring-do, and it’s all done while Aladdin sings a song about his life. He and Abu seem to be having the time of their lives while narrowly avoiding losing their lives or their freedom. The sounds of the guards’ movements as well as Aladdin’s come through the surround sound system effectively. Later, intending to enjoy his well-earned but illegal breakfast, Aladdin kicks back on a quiet rooftop and sees a young boy and girl who obviously haven’t eaten for a while. With hardly a thought, he gives up the breakfast he’s risked his life to get. Later, he gets into a fight in the street with one of Princess Jasmine’s many suitors.

In Chapter 4, the viewer learns that Princess Jasmine has to be married soon. According to law, she’s supposed to marry a prince and can, at least for a while, choose the one she wants. She sings a song to her pet tiger Rajah, and again the choreography and artwork for the sequence is truly outstanding. The birds scattering in all directions fill the surround sound system with beating thunder. At this point, the viewer learns that the evil Jafar is advisor to – and exerting control over – Jasmine’s father, the Sultan.

In Chapter 5, Jasmine leaves the protection of the palace while dressed as a commoner. The bells ringing all around her do a really nice job of hitting all the surround sound speakers, so that we feel like we are in the middle of the action. Of course, while Jasmine is out among the commoners, she runs into Aladdin and he manages to save her from an irate merchant. Before long, though, Aladdin is captured by Jafar, who has already earmarked him as the next thief he is going to send into the Cave of Wonders.

Once Jafar has Aladdin in his clutches, Jasmine tries to get the young thief freed. Jafar tells her that he’s already had Aladdin executed, which crushes Jasmine. In the meantime, Aladdin is thrown into the Cave of Wonders in Chapter 8. He quickly discovers a magic carpet and the lamp. The avalanche in Chapter 9 reaches a crescendo as it washes over Aladdin and leaves him trapped in the cave.

The genie of the lamp puts in his first appearance during Chapter 10. From the very beginning of Williams’ performance, viewers know they’re in for an unexpected treat. The sound comes across big and boisterous, chugging solidly through the surround sound system. The genie, dumb but lovable, immediately sets Aladdin onto the path of achieving the dreams he’s always had. Those now include Princess Jasmine.

Returning to the city, Aladdin has the genie give him a magical makeover that renders him a prince and turns Abu into an elephant. The usual plot ensues, with Aladdin getting in over his head, Jasmine getting promised to Jafar as his wife, and Jafar working on his conniving scheme. In Chapter 17, the song “A Whole New World” gets showcased on a magic carpet ride as Aladdin and Jasmine fall more deeply in love. Jafar plots Aladdin’s doom, though, and drops him into the ocean.

The genie’s rescue of Aladdin in Chapter 18 once again owes itself to the immense vocal and humor talents of Williams. Now, with all the players in place and the stakes properly set, the movie moves briskly through the final breath-taking encounter against Jafar. The deafening crashes of thunder in Chapter 21 lights up the subwoofer.

In addition to the movie, the two-disc set also offers a multitude of extras. The music videos by Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson, and Clay Aiken are nice additions, but the real prizes here is the featurette “A Diamond In The Rough: The Making of ‘Aladdin’ ” and the deleted song found in the Disney vault.

Rendered in beautiful color, amped up by the new surround sound package, “Aladdin” makes a wonderful gift for kids and lovers of cartoons during the holidays. The story is formulaic, but viewing the movie is like opening a favorite brand of candy bar: if you like what you’re about to see, your expectations are definitely going to be met. The only little quibble about the collection is the fact that the Dolby 5.1 rendering doesn’t quite hit the sweet spot for confirmed audiophiles. All said, this is a solid DVD from the folks at Disney, well worth adding to animated collections or the kids’ holiday gift stash.

more details
sound format:
All-New 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound; THX-Certified, Including THX Optimizer; French and Spanish Language Tracks
aspect ratio(s):
Presented In Originally Created Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 1.66:1 — Enhanced For 16x9 Televisions
special features: All-New Music Videos: “A Whole New World” Performed By Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson and “Proud Of Your Boy” Performed by Clay Aiken; Disney’s Virtual DVD Ride: Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Adventure; Inside the Genie’s Lamp—Never-Before-Seen 3-D Tour; The Genie World Tour — Take A Trip Around The World; Three Wishes Game; Deleted Song Found In The Disney Vault; A Diamond In the Rough: The Making of “Aladdin”; Pop-Up Fun Facts; Alan Menken: Musical Renaissance Man; The Art of “Aladdin”; Filmmakers’ Audio Commentary; Animators’ Audio Commentary
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: RCA RT2280
main speakers: RCA RT2280
center speaker: RCA RT2280
rear speakers: RCA RT2280
subwoofer: RCA RT2280
monitor: 42-inch Toshiba

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