Review Summary: A Whole New World.
is interesting. First, there's Robin Williams voicing the Genie, who's the only animated character Williams ever played for the company. Second, the film has the company's first non-white cast of animated characters, who're ironically based on white movie stars. Apparently Tom Cruise is the face of Aladdin, only ethnicized – i.e. brown. Normally, I'd say that if Disney is going to make the effort to diversify, they should actually diversify by accurately representing foreign cultures instead of white-washing them; but I've forgiven Disney, because by glamorizing and
barbarizing the Middle East, essentially piling a humongous heap of Arab stereotypes in a fictitious locale in Arabia, the company's created the most magical Disney movie to date. And besides, it's probably better to steer clear of a polygynist Sultan, 'cause I know that man would've wanted some sons. So, good job Disney. You've not only dodged a bullet, but amidst the beady eyes, magic carpets, belly-dancing girls, Welsh-named red parrots and Indian tigers, you've released the wonderful world of Aladdin and Jasmine, as well as Disney classics that most of y'all should've heard by now: “A Whole New World,” “Friend Like Me,” and “One Jump Ahead.”
At the onset of the movie, “Arabian Nights” emerges, immediately sensationalizing and otherizing the central location of Aladdin
– Agrabah – with lines such as “oh, I come from a land, from a faraway place” and “it's barbaric, but hey, it's home.” Regardless, the song's great musically and lyrically. Even if it's practically the definition of Orientalism, it's arguably the greatest of Disney's openers (neck and neck with Hunchback's); it's sinister, majestic and mystical with a microtonal-sounding melody and a catchy, massive chorus that perfectly introduces the world of Aladdin
, as well as the music that's instrumental in creating it.
Following “Arabian Nights,” the storytelling songs that add to the plot come at you one after the other, beginning with “One Jump Ahead,” which races, carrying you along for the ride like a log in a tide. Paralleling the music, street-rat Aladdin is caught in trouble, narrowly escaping the shop-keepers and sword-wielding men out to capture him. The song is good fun with a trouble-maker spirit that's personable. Then, we're introduced to the wake-up-and-smell-the-hummus Genie voiced by Robin Williams who aptly sings "Friend Like Me" – a bombastic, brassy and flashy American-esque tune, which differentiates the Genie's role in the movie as a presence from the outside. The instrumental differences are reflected lyrically; the song is geared toward playful sass and humor rather than mischief and glamour. Then, the movie changes pace entirely when it reaches the obligatory duet between Jasmine and Aladdin, which, as far as Disney duets go, is the
standard that's not yet been replaced. Yes, it's disgustingly sweet, but it's also the images of romance and adventure brought to life visually and aurally by suitably complementary and competent singers – Brad Kane as Aladdin and Lea Salonga as Jasmine; both of whom have crystal clear and well-ranged voices that make "A Whole New World" the dynamic and pristine way it is. On top of angelic voices are a concoction of strings, woodwinds, and bells that formulate a delightful and timeless backdrop.
“A Whole New World” is the pinnacle of Aladdin
, evoking the beating heart of the film: "shining, shimmering, splendid... soaring, tumbling, free-wheeling." Likewise it's the apex of the soundtrack, marking the half-way point - the one of a kind song unequaled in the film and unmatched outside it. After the song, the latter half of the album is mainly vocal-less orchestra. However, the same musical themes repeat themselves, fastening the film and accompanying musical occurrences tightly together, amply serving the essence of Aladdin
Everything considered, the film is great; the soundtrack is great. The same aspects of Aladdin
that make it culturally insensitive represent the time it was made when few contemplated these type of insensitivities. For some of us, it was because we were too young to think about them, enjoying everything as it was, finding the goodness in stuff and appreciating it far more than we possibly could now. Some of us still might enjoy Disney movies, but it's harder to escape reality by way of them. But, despite the loss of innocence that comes with age, Aladdin
and the soundtrack remain magical and a whole new world.