After the sad passing of gifted comedienne and actor Robin Williams in 2014, I think it’s taken me until now to watch one of his movies again. Yet having sat through this, everything I loved about him came flooding back. He certainly was one of the most likeable and versatile presences in anything he appeared in and this 1991 fantasy-drama is no exception.
Directed by master visionary Terry Gilliam (Twelve Monkeys) this has Jeff Bridges as a shock-jock radio DJ who’s outspoken show inadvertently leads to a shooting in a local restaurant. Disgraced, Bridges falls on hard times and stumbles upon the plight of local ‘bum’ Perry (Williams) who comes to Bridges’ aid after some youths attack him. However, Perry isn’t playing with a full deck and believes the Holy Grail is held in some wealthy tycoon’s house in the middle of New York.
This is quite mad-cap stuff with Gilliam at full tilt delivering fantastical yet captivating imagery (grand central station turning into a ballroom) and filling the movie with a wealth of oddball creations. Yet this is also a story of redemption and salvation and Williams delivers a laugh-out-loud zany performance that’s also filled to the brim with heart. Bridges is also on fine form (with hints of ‘the dude’ prior to The Big Lebowski) and goes on a real character journey.
At times Gilliam’s direction and emphasis of the weird and bizarre gets a bit ‘much’ and takes a little bit of adjustment to fully appreciate. However at its core the movie is equal parts magical, heart-breaking and feel-good making for a genuine cult classic.
The Blu-ray release from the U.K. division of Criterion boasts a pleasingly crisp and vibrant image. Although mostly filmed in a subdued style, various details make it look more expensive than its low budget origins, helped I’m guessing by Gilliam’s unique eye. A noticeable shimmer does rears it’s head now and then though. The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is also clear and effective-enough, if not particularly showy. Extras consist of several worthwhile featurettes, although none new for this release. A highlight though is Terry Gilliam’s commentary from the 90’s. There’s also a poster-like booklet with its own write ups on the movie. Solid treatment for a still very unique and enjoyable movie.
Today I was saddened to wake up to the news that the incredibly gifted and talented actor / comedienne Robin Williams had been found dead at his home in California. He was 63. Suicide was recently confirmed by Police, following years battling with depressions and alcoholism. I feel this is such tragic news for one of those names that wasn’t just liked … he was loved.
Some of my favourite roles were of course the comedy classic Mrs Doubtfire as well as more serious turns in Dead Poets Society and Insomnia. He was also part of my childhood, recalling watching the cult TV show Mork & Mindy when I was a kid. I still haven’t really come to terms with the news and it has affected me quite a bit. He can’t be dead … he was the voice the the Genie in Aladdin!! It doesn’t feel right.
Rest in piece Captain my captain. You will be sorely missed.
It’s been a long time since we were privileged to a real gem of a Disney movie. Pixar’s stellar output doesn’t really count as they were once a studio in their own right, and really it hasn’t been since Beauty & The Beast, The Lion King and especially Alladin that I have come away from a film feeling so…how can I put it? Uplifted!
Aladdin features some of the best songs (A Whole New World an instant classic) and comedy and art design of the entire Disney cannon, and is, next to The Lion King my favourite Disney film of all time. But enough gushing from me – what’s it got going for itself that makes it so special? It’s simple really: Robin Williams’ Genie, one of the most fun, likable characters I think Disney has ever come up with. Add to this some great comedy from the former Mork of Ork, and even a human, emotional side with his desire to be free some day. I also think Aladdin himself is a great character, free of that annoyance factor of some Disney leads, and in addition we get a wonderful love-interest in the form of Princess Jasmin, easily up their with the best Disney beauties.
In this age of High Definition Computer Animation, it is also pleasing just how well Aladdin holds up – yes its 2D, something of a dying art these days which is very sad, as the look of the film’s Arabian locales is a feast for the eyes. A Disney Classic worthy of the name.
This edition is rather extras-light as its more of a sing-a-long version with optional karaoke subtitles, a downloadable song and a lyric book. What is good though is the films excellent image and sound quality that looks its best on the biggest screen you can get hold of.
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