Aladdin

A competent Disney film, but generally no more than that. The basic problem is that Aladdin himself is a bore — just one more variation on the old Disney trope that upright dullness equals virtue. Once Aladdin learns to Be Himself, he can win the heart of Princess Jasmine … who probably wouldn’t have given him the time of day if he hadn’t posed as a prince and whisked her away on his magic carpet. Disney also has a depressingly utilitarian concept of magic: You use magic to get what you want and then discard it; in the meantime, it does things for you that you can’t do yourself. Sorry if I don’t find this philosophy as inspirational as it’s meant to be. Aladdin is best when it hands the screen over to the Genie, who’s almost “The Illustrated Robin Williams.” Otherwise the movie is shallow and frantic. Predictably, one of Howard Ashman’s most biting songs, “Humiliate the Boy” — written for the film when Ashman was dying of AIDS — was deemed too harsh by the Mouse. Disney also bowdlerized a couple of lines in “Arabian Nights” for the home-video release.

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