Guys, we need to talk about Genie.
From a story-telling perspective, Genie is kind of a curse for the Aladdin franchise, a problem that has to be perpetually written around.
He is what Phoenix was to the X-Men, or Sentry was to the Avengers, a character so ridiculously over-powered that the writers have to bend over backwards to justify why he doesn’t just solve everything with a snap of his fingers and leave the rest of the cast standing there looking like a bunch of putzes.
And that’s just from a story-telling perspective. Of any character from the original film, the one who least needs a continuation to their story is Genie. I mean, fine, you could argue that none of the main cast were really crying out for a new chapter but at least with Aladdin, Jasmine and even Iago there places to go. Genie? Genie’s done. He wanted to be free. He’s free. Can he learn? Can he grow? No.
Which creates a problem. From a strict story-telling perspective, once you’re past the first movie, Genie really should have been quietly shown the door. Maybe have him pop in to say “hi” every now and then and make some pop culture references but having him remain as a main cast member just creates two mountains of work for the writers: the first as to how involve him in the plot and the second as to how to stop him just ending the plot in five seconds.
But…they can’t. Because he’s the Genie. Probably the most popular character in the franchise (heck, one of the most popular Disney characters period) and you can’t have Aladdin without him.
I bring this up because King of Thieves (an otherwise quite fine movie and a worthy finale to a decent TV show) is where this problem is probably at its most blatant. Return of Jafar had very little for Genie to do, but sidelined him for long stretches of its run time, but King of Thieves has even less for Genie to do and perversely, gives him far more screentime.
And the reason for that, of course, is ROBIN’S BACK BABY!
Yeah. After a campaign of grovelling and mea-culpas and a gift of a fruckin $1 Million Picasso, Robin Williams and Disney had finally patched up their differences for the kids and their associated revenue. Poor Dan Castellenata, who by this time had clocked in over forty hours of screentime as the Genie and had even recorded his dialogue for this movie was unceremoniously given the boot and Williams was brought in to re-record everything.
So the movie begins with Jasmin and Aladdin finally preparing to tie the knot after two movies and almost ninety episodes of living in sin. As hordes of wedding guests descend on Agrahbah, Genie sings There’s a Party Here in Agrahbah, the poor man’s Prince Ali. While the songs are still pretty bad, there has been a noticeable improvement in the animation which now hovers around the region of passable. In fact, there are scenes in this that get downright frisky in their use of colour and lighting. But…there is still a noticeable problem with keeping characters on model. For some reason, it’s the bride’s side of the family that get the worst of it. Jasmine remains an unattainable siren for the animators, forever beyond their reach to make look like anything other than one of the Gelflings from Dark Crystal and as for the Sultan?
Anyway, Genie finds Aladdin and Abu getting ready for the wedding in their old bachelor hovel. Aladdin has a dagger, which Genie assumes is a wedding gift for Jasmine.
But Aladdin explains it belongs to his father, who died when Aladdin was still a kid. Aladdin admits that he’s nervous about marriage because he never really had a family growing up and I know it’s a small thing but I do really like how the characters in this franchise make sense. Like, they’re not just cartoon characters reacting to whatever random shit the writers throw at them, they actually act in a way consistent with their established backstory. Because, yes, it makes perfect sense that a kid who grew up on the streets with no parents would be worried about making a stable family.
The wedding is just about to begin when a mysterious masked figure dressed in blue and his cadre of thieves (of whom there always seems to be considerably more or considerably less than forty) cause a stampede of elephants to disrupt the ceremony so they can steal all the wedding gifts.
Of course, Iago is guarding the treasure instead of watching the wedding and tries to fight off the thieves’ leader saying “Meet yer match, Zorro!” because apparently Genie has been giving courses in future pop culture references to the other comedic sidekicks. The leader, who calls himself “The King of Thieves” battles Aladdin while his blushing bride-to-be brutally beats burly brigands bloody.
The thieves amscray and Aladdin discovers that the staff the King was trying to steal actually contained an Oracle, who offers to answer any question Aladdin asks of it. Aladdin, realising that he finally has a chance to answer all his questions about his past, asks the Oracle where his father is and she reveals that he is still alive, “trapped within the world of the Forty Thieves” and, also, a total hottie.
In fact, he is at the top of my wife’s list of attractive older Disney men…
WE INTERRUPT THIS REVIEW TO BRING YOU
SPOUSE OF MOUSE’S TOP FIVE MOST
FUCKABLE DISNEY DILFS
Honorable Mention: Triton
Got the swimmer’s bod and the lustrous flowing mane of hair. But, unfortunately, has no dick.
#5 King Agnarr
Gotta love a man with good posture.
#4 King Frederick
Like Agnarr, but voiced by Clancy Brown. Now we’re approaching serious dilf-hood.
#3 Lord John Greystoke
On the one hand, having all these royals and aristocrats on the list is in tension with my republican principals. On the other hand: WOOF.
Former military man, great with kids, wizard in the kitchen. Momma like.
Aladdin decides that his father must be a prisoner of the Forty Theves and sets off to rescue him with carpet, Iago and Abu.
Not Genie though. Genie has to stay and repair the palace. I would have waited until my near-omnipotent buddy was finished before venturing into the lair of a gang of vicious brigands armed with a monkey, but what do I know?
So they track the Forty Thieves to their lair which opens by saying the magic word “Open Sesame”. There, Aladdin discovers that his father is only a prisoner of the Forty Thieves in the sense that we’re all prisoners of our day jobs, he’s actually running the gang. Cassim is overjoyed to see his son, because he thought that he was dead this whole time.
Everything would be dandy, except that Cassim has a Starscream called Sa’luk, voiced by Jerry Orbach who points out that Aladdin knows their secrets and has to die. So, while King of Thieves is pretty much an across the board improvement over Return of Jafar, it really can’t hold a candle to it in the villain department. Jafar, even rendered in shitty Australian/Japanese animation, is still Jafar, and Sa’luk is no Jafar. This isn’t a crippling weakness. The main meat of the movie is the relationship between Aladdin and Cassim, and Cassim is awesome. Honestly one of the best characters in the whole franchise, and Jonathan Rhys-Davies is perfect in the role. Sa’luk is very much a plot-required antagonist and he doesn’t really need to be anything special but damn tho, he really isn’t something special. The design is basic “thug” and Jerry Orbach does not have a voice cut for menace. A friendly, amorous, perpetually melting wax monster? Certainly. But not a villain.
Anyway, Sa’luk wants Aladdin dead but Cassim instead invokes “The Challenge”, where Aladdin has to fight Sa’luk to take his place in the gang. This leads to a quite impressive fight scene with really striking use of colour and a good deal more violence than they were able to get away with on the TV show but it ends with Sa’luk plunging to his death over a cliff (oh, like that ever sticks).
So now Aladdin’s officially a member of the Forty Thieves and he gets to ask Cassim why he abandoned his family all those years ago. Cassim tells Aladdin that he didn’t want his son to grow up poor like him so he went looking for the Hand of Midas, which can transform anything it touches to gold.
Cassim of course claims that he thought Aladdin and his mother were dead.
Aladdin asks Cassim to at least have a chance at a World’s Greatest Dad mug and come back to Agrahbah to witness his wedding. Cassim doesn’t want to take the risk but Iago, like his namesake, whispers honeyed poison into his ear and tells him that it’s his best chance of asking the Oracle where the Hand of Midas is.
Back in Agrahbah, Aladdin tells everyone that Cassim was being held prisoner by the Forty Thieves and everyone instantly likes him because he a charming bastich.
But Sa’luk is still alive, obviously, and claws his way out of the sea while fighting multiple sharks and oh ho, movie, you little scamp, you almost had me! You almost made me think Sa’luk was kind of badass.
Sa’luk, instead of being cool, gets his revenge by ratting out the Forty Thieves to Razoul like a nark. Razoul and the palace guards manage to capture 31 of the thieves, leaving only the ones we’ve actually seen and drastically reducing the animation costs. When Sa’luk sees that neither Aladdin or Cassim were among the thieves when they were captured, he tells Razoul that the father of the groom is actually Agrahbah’s most wanted.
This leads to Razoul surprising Cassim and Iago just as they were trying to steal the Oracle’s staff, and the Sultan has no choice but to throw them both in the dungeon. Aladdin is furious that Cassim betrayed his trust. He disguises himself as the King of Thieves in order to distract the guards and also just because he rocks the look.
He fools the guards into thinking that he’s Cassim which baffles them because “no one can escape that dungeon!” and oh please, Arkham has better security than that place. He then doubles back and springs Cassim and tells him to leave Agrahbah and never come back. But Razoul tackles Aladdin on the rooftop and unmasks him, so now Aladdin is a wanted criminal. Again. Fortunately, Cassim rescues Aladdin and they flee the city along with Iago. Cassim wants Aladdin to come with him but Aladdin refuses to abandon Jasmine because apparently the douche gene skipped a generation. Aladdin also tells Iago to stay with Cassim because it’s what he wants and it’s presented as a sweet moment but honestly I think Aladdin’s finally realised that the bird’s just too much fucking trouble.
Cassim returns to the cave of the Forty Thieves only to find that Sa’luk has turned the last seven thieves against him through the power of a pretty mediocre song. They capture him and use the Oracle to show them the way to the Hand of Midas, but Iago escapes and flies back to get help.
Meanwhile, Aladdin is put on trial for helping the King of Thieves escape, and, despite the fact that he is the Sultan’s soon to be son-in-law, the law is applied fairly and he is forced to serve a sentence as punishment for his…
Nah, course not. This is Agrahbah. Ordinary people get be-handed for stealing bread, but if you’re in with the ruling class you’re un-fucking-touchable. I mean, the constitution of this place is probably a napkin with the words “Well am I Sultan or am I Sultan?” written on it.
Just as Aladdin is celebrating his close escape from the nefarious clutches of consequence for his actions, Iago arrives and tells him that his father is in danger and Aladdin of course says “Fuck him”.
Seriously. That’s in the movie. Would I lie to you?
Anyway, he’s convinced to rescue his father by Genie and…what I think is supposed to be Jasmine?
Goddamn it, Australian and Japanese animators what did she do to you?
Anyway, they head out to where the Hang of Midas is hidden, in an abandoned city floating on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown). They defeat the seven thieve (because, y’know, they have a genie which is frankly unsportsmanlike) and Cassim and Aladdin work together to get the Hand of Midas. Sal’luk almost kills Aladdin and grabs the Hand of Midas which turns him to to solid gold…
Cassim realises that the Hand of Midas almost cost him the real greatest treasure which was yadda yadda yadda you see where this is going, and he throws the Hand of Midas into the sea, which turns the ocean into gold, thus dooming all life on Earth. Probably.
Anyway, the movie ends with Cassim proudly watching as his son and Jasmine finally tie the knot and riding off into the desert with his new partner in crime, Iago.
King of Thieves is actually a lot better than I remembered it. Not perfect, and obviously it’s a good few grades below the original but it treats its characters with respect, the cast is excellent, the script is funny the songs are…the songs are…y’know. It has songs.
How butt ugly is the animation? Is it as ugly as a butt?: 09/20
Still not great, but there is real ambition and effort here and it is a marked improvement over Jafar.
Are the main characters jerks? I bet they’re jerks: 17/20
Aladdin gets some really nice shading where we see he’s more than just a generic “good guy”. Jasmine gets to punch some fools which is always fun. And Cassim is a great addition to the cast.
Bet the villain’s a real shitpile, character wise: 08/20
Not terrible. Just dull.
Oh what’s this? Supporting characters? Fuck you supporting characters!: 14/20
Rajah, Abu and Carpet are basically background characters now because we need to make room for Robin Williams to muck about. Some of it’s funny, honestly, but there’s a lot of “Pop Culture Reference=Instant Funny” Theory at work here. Again, surprisingly, it’s Iago who proves the most interesting of the fifty bajillion comic relief characters
Man, fuck the music. I hope it dies: 10/20
Con: The Songs are still bad. Pro: Iago doesn’t sing any of them. Second Pro: The score by Mark Watters and Carl Johnson is actually pretty awesome.
FINAL SCORE: 58%
NEXT UPDATE: 31 October 2019
NEXT TIME: Something spooooooooooooooooooooooooky…