Never go back, they say. Don’t re-read that favourite book, or visit your old home. It’ll be disappointing.
It goes for film, of course. Not all but quite a few to make the cliche work for its living, at the very least.
When our two were young and we still used videos as a trendy form of entertainment, we had friends living in the unregulated world of Bahrain. They could source bootlegged Disney videos for the price of corruptible conscience. We were sent several that had yet to make it to the TV – Dumbo, 101 Dalmatians, Sleeping Beauty. The older they were the better quality, since they were
recorded stolen from the master tape. The newer ones – I can’t remember which it was – came through with the odd head silhouetted in the shot as someone got up to walk out half way through the film. The kids were delighted, told their friends and my criminality was unmasked for a small select band of parents at their primary school.
One of the popular videos was Aladdin. Cheesy cartoons and ear-wormy songs that were the staple fayre of the Disney stable before Pixar came along, added homages to earlier, greater films and a lot of adult humour, in the sense that we adults laughed rather than cringed and changed the world of animation for good. I sat through Aladdin with its leading characters as badly sketched as a 1960s tower block – those unfeasibly round anime eyes, that were meant to suck you in emotionally but merely left you worrying about early onset dropsy. The saving grace was that Robin Williams voiced the genie. Scripted some of it, too. And consequently I survived the experience and can still recall it without resorting to a Herbert Lom twitch.
Honestly, I thought my Aladdin days were done and then along comes the live action version with a cimematographically enhanced Will Smith playing the Robin Williams role of wise-cracking genie.
‘Do you want to see Aladdin?’ This from the Vet, and a blast from the past because she’d have been the one asking to see the video.
I asked the Textiliste if she wanted to see it and received a look – the sort that tells me destressing her teaspoon collection will be preferable.
So it was just me and the loved up soon-to-be-weds. When we met up in the Picturehouse the Vet was excited. ‘I’m excited,’ she told us, unnecessarily. ‘Are you?’
Honestly, not really. It have every element that tended towards a meah evening – a story I knew and one where the previous version’s one redeeming feature – Williams’ unique brand of stream of consciousness humour – was missing; a fantasy that was really for kids but hoped to cross genres but was more likely to make for a cross genre and an even crosser audience; a musical whose best songs would only make it onto a playlist if it was commissioned by K-tel; and a great comic actor who you feared would either be himself and flop in comparison to his predecessor or worse try and emulate the great man and ignore his own skill set.
Not setting the bar very high, am I?
And the opening sequences involving all the main players apart from the genie, lived up to expectations. Sadly. The CGI was fine, the monkey companion to Aladdin a perfect example of a method acting simian and the first song nicely done. Sigh.
Then the genie appeared and everything perked up. It wasn’t Robin Williams but then again it wasn’t not Williams. It was a homage but one done with wit and care. I laughed, I tapped along to the best musical number as Aladdin pretended to be Prince Ali to woo Princess Jasmine and I didn’t look at my watch.
It is a film, in and of its type. Not an Oscar nomination but one to leave a bit of a smile and not the sense of twelve quid wasted.
If you ask me to remember one thing from Williams’ performance on the cartoon it is when Aladdin frees the genie. ‘What will you do?’ Asks Aladdin.
The genie thinks and then spins around manically grinning. In the same voice and intonation with he stunned us with ‘Good Morning, Vi-Et-Nam!’ Williams bellows, ‘I’m History!’ He pauses and looks confused before another spin and grin. ‘I’m mythology!!’ And then he explodes like a firework and disappears over the horizon, with, ‘No, I don’t care what I am, I’m free!!!’
It was perfect Williams. Smith doesn’t repeat it, thank heavens. It’s a classic of its time and type. But I can give him no better praise than to say his version didn’t lack in comparison.
If you’ve kids or adults who would be kids and you enjoyed the cartoon then give it a whirl. If not then go check on the mental health of your cutlery…