(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Aladdin and the King of Thieves)
Doug (vo): Well, with The Return of Jafar doing so well in sales and the animated series being a pretty modest hit, it only made sense to wrap it all up with one more Aladdin movie, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, a much better sequel than the last one. Not only is it more cinematic in both the story and its visual style, but it actually puts the focus back on Aladdin and the troubles he's going through. Does that make it good? Well, I don't know if I can go that far. There are still a lot of things that don't work about it. But I can at least say I was genuinely entertained and even kind of impressed.
Doug (vo): Aladdin and Jasmine are finally getting married. Yeah, I guess they pushed that whole "three days" thing off of it. But like he said, he's the Sultan and can change the law, so why even have a law that she has to be married...oh, who knows? Fairy tales, ha-ha. But Aladdin is feeling sad, because he can't invite his father to the wedding, because, well, he never knew his father. But that all changes when he discovers his father is actually the King of the Forty Thieves, and tries to rob the wedding. He's trying to get this scepter that's in the palace that contains an Oracle that can tell him where the greatest treasure of all is, the Hand of Midas. Aladdin and his father, played by John Rhys-Davies, finally meet up and don't know what to really make of each other. The father is confused about how he made it to a place of royalty, and Aladdin is confused why his father is still a thief. Both want a relationship to bloom, but both have issues trusting the other, especially Aladdin trusting his father, and we find out, kind of rightfully so. The father still wants to find the Hand of Midas and will do anything to achieve it. So Aladdin puts off his wedding and goes back and forth trying to figure out whether or not he wants to help his father and get the treasure, or if he just wants his father back to be, well, his father.
Doug (vo): And, yeah, this is kind of the main problem with the film. I give them credit for tackling the issue of fathers that aren't very good fathers as it can be a very tough issue. Sometimes can turn over a new leaf, but other times are still caught in the selfish cycle. But here's the problem: Aladdin's father's cycle doesn't really make sense. He says that he left Aladdin because he couldn't provide for him and his wife, so he goes to join the Forty Thieves to get his treasure so that, well, he can support them. They clearly find a lot of treasures, but he never comes back*. Well, okay, maybe they are building him up as kind of a deadbeat dad, but, no. They try to give him these sympathetic moments, which I'm usually for, except it doesn't match at all what he was talking about. Anyone that talks like how this father talks about his son wouldn't do the things that he does. He would be happy to go to the wedding, he wouldn't give a crap about the treasure. In fact, there's really no point to care about the treasure. He can just go and live in the palace! It's all just a pride thing. But then, at the end, he throws away the treasure, even though he tried so hard to get it, but...wait! Aladdin was helping him find the treasure, too. Why does Aladdin suddenly care about this? It's so weird to see Aladdin just abandon his wedding, then be like, "Hey, let's go find this treasure that, really, I don't care about." But he does it really cheerfully, and the father is all okay with it, and it just doesn't add up. The motivations constantly go back and forth, but not in the way I feel was intentional. If you want to see this kind of story done so much better, watch Adventure Time and Finn's connection to his father, or even, strangely enough, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and his connection with his real father. These shows get it, and they know how to explain it well. I don't think this one really does. It feels more like they want to do something with Aladdin connecting to his father, but they also want a treasure hunt. So they just kind of smash them together and, yeah, given the probable short amount of time they had on this, I guess I can't be surprised what we got. But that still doesn't mean that the heart and focus works, and when the heart and focus doesn't work, the film really suffers, and it's hard to get behind it.
*(Note: A minor mistake Doug made there. Cassim does explain at one point that he did come back to Agrabah one night, but couldn't find his family. Thinking they were lost forever, he had no choice but to keep being a thief)
(Several characters are shown)
Doug (vo): But that's not the only problem. The first Aladdin was very good at balancing out the characters. Everyone felt like they got the appropriate amount of screentime. In this one, it's mostly on Aladdin, which is better than Return of Jafar, which was mostly on Iago, but all Jasmine does is show some support and then mostly stays out of the picture, and all the Genie does is want to plan a wedding.
(Footage focusing on the Genie is shown)
Doug (vo): Speaking of which, let's talk about the Genie, because Robin Williams is back to voice him, and that's both kind of a pro and a con. It's a pro because it's Robin Williams, and his improvising is incredible. But it's a con because unlike the first film, they don't always know when to cut him off. Granted, in the original, they do leave the camera on him too long sometimes, but they knew to keep the focus on Aladdin and the story and so forth. In this one, I actually kind of dreaded whenever the Genie was gonna come onscreen. Even when he made me laugh, it just didn't connect to anything. It's like he comes in and just hijacks the movie when we could be spending more time trying to get the motivations of Aladdin and his father down, or give Jasmine more time, or make the villain more interesting. Just, every time he shows up, even when it's hilarious, it still feels out of place.
(Several song sequences are shown)
Doug (vo): At first, I thought the songs were gonna be really good. The first one really had me tapping my feet and kind of humming it afterwards. But then, outside of a duet from Aladdin and Jasmine, they all sound exactly like that. I swear, it's like the exact same song in the exact same rhythm, just a few notes are missing or changed. There's very little variety, which is ironic, because I know more than one songwriter worked on this.
(Various clips resume showing)
Doug (vo): But for all its problems, like I said, there are a lot of good things. Williams' jokes, though they do go on too long, are still mostly funny. They do at least try to tie in some of the characters at the end, Jasmine throws a punch, and the Genie gets a few action scenes. And like I said, you can tell they're trying to go that extra mile. Look at some of this animation. This is the same crew that brought the Aladdin TV show to life. TV shows back then didn't have a big animation budget, so for them to come together and pull off something that looks this good, it's really impressive. The angles, the movement, the lighting, the colors. You can tell they knew this was gonna be the last thing Aladdin-related, and they wanted to try their hardest to make it good. And give them credit, for all the action and singing, there are a lot of times where people just sit down and talk, when it's actually needed and welcomed. And those scenes don't feel forced, they flow very naturally. It's just... (Sighs) ...once again, the motivations. There's a difference between being intentionally complex and sloppily complex.
Final thought Edit
Doug (vo): I feel like this movie had a lot of really good scenes and ideas, but no concentrated narrative to have them connect or flow. So it's a tough call. I don't see it really working as a film, but I'm also kind of happy I saw it. It was visually interesting, it was creative, you could tell it was trying to have a real heart and soul, and I give it credit that it was trying to wrap up both the TV series and the movies. It even ends with the merchant singing the song at the end. Those are kind of nice bookends. I get a feeling if I was a little kid, I'd be into it, and as an adult, there's some neat stuff. It's just that none of it ever really connected. But you've got to give props to the directors and animators, who you know were on a tough deadline for this. For Disney sequels and shows that are almost never given enough time to be fleshed out, this was a valiant attempt to justly wrap up another Arabian night.
(The final scene of the movie, showing Cassim and Iago riding off in the distance to see the world, is shown)