Thursday, August 1, 2013

Disney Sequelester: Aladdin and the King of Thieves

Welcome to Disney Sequel #2, Aladdin and the King of Thieves! Things can only go up from the last movie (and then swiftly back down).

All I've seen so far is a shadow and already that's better animated than The Return of Jafar.

Ohhh, great, Robin Williams is back to Robin Williams all over this movie. I see we waited a whole thirty-six seconds to launch him into song. Because the Genie is in no way the most infuriatingly insufferable thing about this whole franchise.

While the entirety of Agrabah congregates in the palace (plus a bunch of thieves stuffed into jars on either side of a train of camels, in a clever nod to the original Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves story), Aladdin is off introducing us to his daddy issues for the first time.

Dude, it's been like six years, and you're STILL wearing that?!
In a bit of truly inspired laziness, the screenwriter actually has the Genie INTERVIEW Aladdin about his dad, wedding fears, and the contents of the first two movies.

But even so, already this movie is much better constructed than the last one. We've dropped hints about the King of Thieves' obsession with some oracle, established Aladdin's dad is missing, reminded the audience of Iago's greed twice, and rubbed the Genie all over everything.

This pretty much sums up the Genie's performance in this movie.

I like the fact that the wedding guests are majority black or brown. That makes sense in this part of the world, but given that Aladdin and Jasmine appear to be having a Western wedding, complete with white dress and bridesmaids, idk.

The thieves "sneak" in and "distract" the crowd by knocking the entire palace down and chasing the guests everywhere. Well done? But I'm pleased to see that there are actual jokes in this, and quite a few are actually funny, like the thieves stealing a man's beard off his face.

"Can we get a quote from Osiris?"
There's also some thoughtless inconsistencies, like the Genie only zapping the thieves after a solid three minutes of fighting. THANKS DUDE, SO GLAD YOU HELPED CRACK ALL THOSE JOKES, VERY USEFUL.

The oracle pops up and informs Aladdin that the dude he just chased out of his wedding is actually his father. Well okay, it shows exactly what he was wearing, badge and all, and Aladdin somehow fails to recognize him. Anyway, Aladdin still isn't sure he wants to find his father, because his father never bothered to find him. But he "doesn't know who he is" without knowing his father. And then Jasmine tells him, "I already know your father. I know you." And then they sing about it, because singing solves all problems.

Mmmkay. Soooo.

This aspect is, by far, the movie's biggest flaw. First of all, Aladdin was raised by his mother, who also died at some unspecified point in time. He says, "I never had a father to show me how to raise a family!" and wishes his dad was around to give him advice. Apparently it's okay that his mom's not here, cos she didn't know crap anyway!

And then we have the message that blood family = you. Uh, Jasmine? No, sorry, but you do not know Aladdin's father. The crazy thing about genetics is that it doesn't actually give you a hive mind.

I can't help feeling that giving kids the literal message that you "don't know who you are" without knowing your blood relatives is a little... suck? I mean, what about orphans? Are they doomed to a life of emptiness?

This setup is just that, a setup for the storyline to unfold around, but it's lazy and irresponsible. You know what else would have worked? If the Genie went running to Aladdin saying, "Wait, your parents haven't arrived!" Aladdin says, "Oh, both my parents died when I was young," there's a rumination on family through the theme of getting married to Jasmine and how she's all he has, thieves attack, the oracle pops up, after a telling glance at the Genie we have Aladdin ask, "Is anyone in my family still alive?" BADDA-BING.

Anyway, back to reality. Aladdin decides to chase after his dad and Jasmine promises, "I'll be waiting right here for you." Or you could... go with him? NOPE GIRLS DON'T GO ON ADVENTURES DURR. It's not like she just knocked out a thief by punching him right in the face or anything. Look movie, she's either useful or she's not. Pick one.

"I'm finally getting married! Who gives a crap about adventure?!"
Luckily for Aladdin, the Forty Thieves are about as stealthy as a trainwreck. He flies in after their Open Sesame and immediately gets caught. There he meets the King of Thieves who is, GASP, his father!

Oh and there's also his father's right-hand man, who is definitely not evil.
Subtlety McGee declares: "The boy has seen too much; he must die! They must all die!" Good luck killing a rug, dude.

Cassim "cleverly" uses a bit of reverse psychology to get the thieves to allow Aladdin to do The Challenge, which is basically just a fight to the death. Winner gets to join the Forty Thieves!

SURPRISE Aladdin wins.
Then everybody sings about it, which is admittedly pretty funny. "And if you like to lurk, you're gonna love this work; welcome to the Forty Thieves!" Iago is way more intrigued by Daddy Not-Sean-Connery than Aladdin, who's upset about the whole thief thing, but still wants Cassim to come to the wedding.

Iago: "Does this code have any rules that don't end in death?"
Cassim: "It's a strict code."

Of course, Cassim doesn't allow the Forty Thieves to hurt the innocent. Because Jasmine and Aladdin were out flogging townspeople before their wedding, I suppose?

The relationship between Cassim and Aladdin gets real weird real fast. The movie tries to make it seem like they've known each other for a few months instead of a few minutes. So they alternate between "Why can't you be there for my wedding, DAD, I NEED YOU" and "GET YOUR HANDS OFF MY SON but no kid I don't want to eat rubber chicken at your boring wedding".

But my BFF Iago convinces Cassim to come to the wedding in order to grab the oracle staff again, so they can find the Hand of Midas, which turns everything into copper.

Okay, fine, it turns everything into gold.
Aladdin and Jasmine launch into OS X Wedding 2.0, while Cassim sneaks around. While this part of the movie is pretty rushed - Aladdin comes home, they re-plan the wedding, Cassim gets caught, Aladdin finds out, Aladdin frees him all in about 15 minutes - I really like what they tried to do here.

Also the Genie prats around a bunch and I pretty much make this face.
Aladdin's convinced himself that his father "just needed a second chance", while we see Cassim straight-up tell him, "But I am the King of Thieves". Cassim makes half-hearted attempts to be decent, like telling Iago, "After this last job I'll go straight," but he brazenly lies to the Sultan and Jasmine, protests to Aladdin repeatedly that he doesn't belong here, and tries to steal his son's wedding presents.

Evil McMustache sold out Cassim to the guards, so Cassim gets caught and Aladdin tries to rescue him. In the process they both get caught, but although they both escape, Aladdin refuses to run away. Cassim runs out into the desert still chasing after treasure, and Aladdin goes back to the palace with a sword hanging over his head. For Disney, this is fairly subtle storytelling.

Of course the Sultan is super impressed with Aladdin's honor and everything's fine, surprise!

But the dad is in trouble, which Aladdin knows because be quiet there's like twenty minutes left. So now the gang is off to - HEY. Why is Jasmine flying with them this time?!

And I suppose this wouldn't have been useful before?
The Forty Thieves have mostly been captured due to double-crossing, so they're more like the Eight Thieves at this point, with Baddie McNoGood at the helm. They find the Island of Whatever (on the back of a turtle...) at about the same time Aladdin & Co. do, and there's a showdown! Kind of? Cassim finds the hand, Aladdin gets the hand, Glower McVillain gets gilded to death, and then Cassim throws the Hand of Midas away for literally no reason. Cassim says, "You, son, are the ultimate treasure. I'm just sorry it took me so long to realize it."

BULLCRAP. If you don't want the gold zapper then I want it, buddy. Also, why did throwing that into the ocean not turn the entire ocean into gold? Logic!

I do really like the end of this movie. Jasmine and Aladdin finally have their wedding, and Cassim attends - but only by lurking around a pillar. Aladdin wants to make Cassim a part of his life, but in the end, realizes that he can't. That's a pretty courageous ending - not just for a Disney movie, but for any movie.

Iago rides away with him, saying: "You're a good guy, Cassim. But not
too good."
Overall, Aladdin and the King of Thieves is leaps and bounds better than The Return of Jafar; there's practically no comparison. Some of the jokes are actually funny, the songs are WAY better, and the animation is only subpar, not "an assault on the entire philosophy of aesthetics". There actually is a story, although it's problematic at times, and the ending is surprisingly sophisticated.

On the other hand, the motivations and feelings of the characters are often muddled and confused. And remember how Jasmine and the Genie had nothing to do in the last movie? Yeah, it's even worse in this one. Jasmine's inner turmoil is literally about whether or not she'll be able to drag Aladdin to the altar. Because we all know how desperately Jasmine was dying to get married, amiright?

I do like the tiger carrying her train, though.
This movie won't make you lose your will to live, but it may trigger a lifelong intolerance of Robin Williams.

I don't think I'm going to be so lucky with the next one...

dun dun DUN


  1. Lol! This is hilarious. The graphics are SO much better. They look great in comparison. I don't remember much about this movie, but strangely enough I remember every word of that song Aladdin and Jasmine sing together. "You'll finally learn you don't come out of thin air." Lol! Maybe I'll dust off the old VCR and pop it in. ^_^

    I can't believe you're watching the Beauty and Beast middle-of-the-story sequel. Lol! You're so brave.

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