This French comedy, the title of which in English is The New Adventures of Aladdin, was the first and best of the ten movies I saw on my latest trip to the US.
It’s a story within a story; the frame story is set during Christmas and is about a guy who is planning an after-hours robbery of the department store where he and his buddy work. Before the time arrives, however, his boss makes him tell a story to a group of kids, and he chooses to narrate a ‘remix’ of the fantasy story of Aladdin.
This version of Aladdin is a mixture of the familiar 1992 Disney cartoon, the traditional Arabian Nights story, and the filmmakers’ own ideas. Some of the new ideas are wry anachronisms inserted by the character who serves as narrator; others are suggested by the children in the audience as the story progresses.
The whole thing is utterly hilarious, and of course there’s a happy holiday ending: the narrator—the proverbial thief with a heart of gold—decides not to go through with the robbery after all.
For more on what I liked, with SPOILERS, keep reading.
In no particular order, I liked:
- the fantasy sets and costumes
- hot wiring the carpet, subsequent joyride
- repeating joke about wanting to hear Snow White instead
- changing the story to have less death by means of a very vague doctor
- the children’s insistence that the Sultan demand a candy machine from Aladin as the price for the hand of the princess
- repeating joke about the vizier talking to himself
- the vizier’s tendency to just kill people who annoy him, and people’s tendency to do exactly that
- “L’etat, c’est moi.”
- the first wish: non-frizzy hair
- the confrontation in the village square where the hero escapes… and then gets captured again
- the flying carpet fight that’s not actually in the film
- the genie’s failed attempt to explain free speech
- various other anachronisms (including the princess offering Aladin’s brother some sushi)
- pop-culture references and in-jokes (“I am your father”)
- the Indiana Jones trap that lit up and required moves like Dance Dance Revolution
- the exaggerated and very literal spark felt by Aladin and the princess when they meet, and when they meet again
- the music video for Aladin’s arrival in the city
- Aladin’s hallucinations of water being brought to him in the desert
- the whole subplot with the brother (after he’s killed and then healed by the doctor, the vizier hires him to impersonate his nephew and marry the princess so that he can rule, but he falls in love with the maid)
- the theme that the truth is important and stealing is bad
- seeing an adult who’s not interested in kids becomes deeply committed to telling a good story to a group of kids
More info (in French):