Review: Aladdin

Is there a single culture the animation department at Disney hasn’t white-washed for the masses?

Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

Among the more overpraised cartoons in the Disney canon, Aladdin explores what happens when a street urchin simultaneously falls in love with a princess and incurs the wrath of the evil sorcerer trying to destroy her father’s kingdom. Jasmine is another “free-spirited” type in the studio’s Barbie-doll tradition, a sexualized faux feminist who wants everyone to know that she can do everything that boys can. Though the film’s milieu is ostensibly an Arab enchanted city, there’s nothing particularly Middle Eastern about the whole thing outside of the preponderance of sand. Having spent considerable quality time with Aladdin dodging officers and fruit sellers at the local market, it’s amazing Jasmine can’t recognize Aladdin beneath the turban. It’s not like the animators have made it difficult for her, as every Arab male in the film is shady and sniveling (even the evil Jafar’s pet parrot gets his name from Shakespeare’s “darkest” play, Othello), whereas Aladdin looks like Scott Wolf and sounds like Clay Aiken. Disney knows how to sell lies, but Aladdin is ultimately less offensive than ridiculous, mostly because its ethnic white noise is really just an excuse for Robin Williams—as a postmodern blabbermouthed genie who grants Aladdin three wishes—to put on an elaborately narcissistic circus act. The actor once said, “Cocaine is God’s way of saying you’re making too much money.” Aladdin is proof that he was right.

 Cast: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, Douglas Seale, Bruce Adler, Brad Kane, Lea Salonga  Director: Ron Clements, John Musker  Screenwriter: Ron Clements, Ted Elliott, John Musker, Terry Rossio  Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures  Running Time: 90 min  Rating: G  Year: 1992  Buy: Video, Soundtrack

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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