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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Tad Stones
Cast:
Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, John Rhys-Davies, Gilbert Gottfried, Jerry Orbach, Val Bettin, Frank Welker
Writing Credits:
Mark McCorkle, Robert Schooley

Synopsis:
Aladdin's thrilling adventure continues with Aladdin: The Return of Jafar and The King of Thieves - together for the first time on DVD in the Aladdin II & III Collection. This exciting two-movie set features two times the magic, two times the fun, and all your favorite characters.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 81 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 1/18/2005

Available Only in a Two-Pack with Aladdin and the King of Thieves.

Bonus:
• “Bag the Bad Guys” Game
• “Loot in the Lair” Challenge
• “Behind the Microphone” Featurette
• Disney’s Song Selection


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Aladdin III: Aladdin And The King Of Thieves (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 29, 2005)

In 1994, Aladdin: The Return of Jafar proved that fans would flock to the stores to buy “direct-to-video” sequels. The second installment in the Aladdin series sold very well despite the absence of star Robin Williams. He refused to appear due to a dispute with Disney.

The two sides kissed and made up by the time of 1996’s Aladdin and the King of Thieves. The third and final - to date, at least - Aladdin flick brings back Williams as the Genie. He replaces replacement Dan Castellaneta in this tale.

Thieves wants us to know this right up front, as the Genie is the first character we encounter. We learn that Aladdin (Scott Weinger) and Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin) will finally wed. Aladdin has some jitters, however, primarily because he worries his lack of family hasn’t prepared him for a clan of his own.

He goes through with things despite his concerns, but the wedding doesn’t come off as planned. Led by Cassim (John Rhys-Davies), the 40 Thieves bust in on the ceremony to rob the masses. Cassim also seeks a certain artifact, but Aladdin foils his attempt and the “King of Thieves” flees.

When the gang inspects the object of Cassim’s desire, they discover it’s a magical staff that activates an oracle (CCH Pounder). She reveals that Aladdin’s father is still alive. With Jasmine’s support, Aladdin decides to find his pop. The oracle tells Aladdin to follow the trail of the 40 Thieves, so the kid sets off to locate his old man. The movie follows his adventures as he searches for the secrets of his past and what happens when he does find his dad.

The return of Robin Williams created greater expectations for Thieves than for Jafar, and the movie indeed outperforms its immediate predecessor. That shouldn’t be mistaken for an endorsement, however. Thieves may surpass the relentless mediocrity of Jafar, but it never threatens to turn into anything particularly endearing.

The degree to which Thieves works depends almost wholly on the amount of time Williams spends on screen. When it succeeds, it does so due to his vivacity and creativity. The pop culture references fly even more freely here than in the original movie, and those nutty moments offer some humor. We get some good bits such as an out-of-nowhere allusion to Mickey Mouse’s “Steamboat Willie”.

While these moments amuse, they prove less effective than similar bits in Aladdin because they don’t mesh with the story as neatly. At times, the Genie’s presence feels tacked on and not very connected to the main story. Since the plot is fairly generic and tedious, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it means the flick tends to flop whenever the Genie isn’t onscreen.

This happens primarily after the first act. We see a lot of the Genie during the initial 30 minutes or so, but he pops up more sporadically through the rest of the movie. The movie then relies on a generic “find what’s really inside you” story that comes with the usual morals. Despite a fairly good vocal turn from Rhys-Davies, these moments tend to meander and don’t bring much life to the movie.

The songs work better than those in Jafar but mostly sound like reworkings of numbers from Aladdin. Actually, many seem to simply rewrite “Friend Like Me”. Even those not sung by the Genie use a similar style, and this gets old. However, at least they show a little life, whereas the generic tunes of Jafar were absolutely forgettable.

Art and animation also jumped up a bit compared with Jafar. They remain moderately crude and simplistic most of the time, though a few sequences attempt some ambitious moments. For example, Aladdin’s fight with Sa’luk demonstrates striking use of shadows and stylized colors. Nothing approaches the quality of theatrical animation, but it’s not bad for a made-for-video effort.

The same sentiments apply to most of Aladdin and the King of Thieves. By feature standards, it’s not terribly good, but it’s above average for video product. It also looks solid by comparison with its miserable predecessor. Even this one’s weaker moments are more entertaining than anything in Jafar. Thieves is clearly nothing more than a shadow of Aladdin, but after the dismal Jafar, it looks relatively good.

Footnote: stick through the end credits for some more Genie-related wackiness.


The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B/ Bonus D+

Aladdin and the King of Thieves appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was an unfortunate choice, as Thieves clearly cropped the original 1.33:1 material. I saw lots of heads chopped off at their tops and other weird framing. The most blatant example of the cropping came from a gag that echoed the opening of The Brady Bunch. Instead of the intended squares at the top and bottom, those slots became rectangles.

Why’d they crop Thieves? I have no idea. Jafar appeared in its original fullframe ratio, and the DVD’s case claimed that Thieves would be 1.33:1 as well. Someone messed up as they transferred the movie in the incorrect dimensions.

Picture quality was acceptable otherwise, but never anything special. Sharpness usually came across fairly well. Occasional examples of softness manifested themselves, but not too many of these interfered. The movie usually showed decent delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and I also noticed no signs of edge enhancement.

As for source flaws, poor clean-up animation seemed to be at the root of most of them. I saw sporadic examples of specks and marks, most of which looked like they stemmed from sloppy finishing. Moderate grain also occurred, and that made the flick appear less vivid than I’d expect.

Colors varied but usually prospered. The hues tended to be a little thick, though not badly so. Instead, the tones mostly came across as pretty vibrant and full. Blacks looked deep and tight, but shadows were a concern. Most of the low-light sequences appeared too dark, and it often became tough to make out elements in the shadows. This was a generally mediocre transfer marred mostly by a bad crop job.

No similar concerns affected the generally positive Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Aladdin and the King of Thieves. Unlike the restrained Jafar, this one featured a pretty lively soundfield - at least occasionally. The mix offered a good sense of stereo imaging for the music and also opened up the environment adequately. The movie used the action sequences to create some nice activity, and the surrounds kicked in with a smattering of good information. These led the movie to offer a fairly involving setting most of the time.

Audio quality also seemed fine for the most part. Speech came across as natural and clear, and I noticed no issues with intelligibility or edginess. Music needed more oomph and didn’t present great depth, but the score and songs were generally acceptable in their dynamics. Effects worked best. They sounded clean and accurate, and they also kicked in some nice bass when appropriate. The track brought the subwoofer to life and offered more than a few sequences with solid impact. There’s not enough material here to muster more than a “B”, but it’s a good mix.

Only a small set of extras shows up here. We start with the Bag the Bad Guys game. This is one of those tedious guessing contests found on many Disney DVDs. At least it’s forgiving and offers an actual reward. Once you locate eight thieves, you can check out brief files on the thieves. It’s not special, but it’s better than nothing.

Another feature of this sort pops up next with the Loot in the Lair Challenge. This one’s yet another guessing game without any skill required. Actually, it’s worse than that since it’s not as forgiving. It promises a reward, but I got too fed up with it to finish.

In a featurette entitled Behind the Microphone, we get a four-minute and 43-second glimpse at the flick’s voice talent. We see movie clips, shots from the studio, and interviews with actors Scott Weinger, Linda Larkin, Frank Welker, Jerry Orbach, John Rhys-Davies, Gilbert Gottfried and Robin Williams. It’s mostly a fluffy promotional bit, but the elements from the recording are fun to see and make it worth a look.

Disney’s Song Selection basically acts as an alternate form of chapter menu. It lets you jump to any of the film’s six song performances, and it also allows you to show on-screen lyrics.

Thieves opens with a collection of ads. These include promos for Bambi, The Incredibles, Mulan II, and the “Disney Princess” line. All of these also appear in the Sneak Peeks domain along with an ad for Growing Up With Winnie the Pooh.

Predictable and without much spark, Aladdin and the King of Thieves doesn’t threaten to entertain as well as the original Aladdin. However, I must admit I kind of enjoyed it, probably just because I watched it immediately after I viewed the atrocious Return of Jafar. Largely due to the returned presence of Robin Williams, Thieves presents a smattering of entertaining moments, though the flick never becomes anything special.

The DVD’s audio works pretty well, but the picture suffers from ugly cropping executed for no discernible reason. Disney made this a widescreen film via artificial methods that don’t make sense to me. The package also lacks substantial extras. If you happen to see Thieves playing somewhere, it’s not a bad way to pass a few minutes. I can’t recommend a purchase of this mediocre flick, however.

Note that Aladdin and the King of Thieves currently can’t be purchased on its own. Instead, it comes solely as part of a two-pack with The Return of Jafar, the second installment in the Aladdin series.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.9166 Stars Number of Votes: 12
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