Return of Jafar Review
Theme Song by Brian Setzer and owned by Walt Disney Records
When Aladdin was released in 1992 it was a phenomenal success. It was the highest grossing animated feature at that time with a gross of over 200 million dollars in America alone. Naturally a very popular movie with even the smallest chance for a sequel was given one. This was a very economical thing for Disney because what better way to experiment with direct to video films than by releasing a sequel to your most popular property at the time. The creative team was no slouch either. The sequel was created by the television animation studio and was worked on by pretty much the same crew that was already working on the popular Little Mermaid TV show at the time. It was also a test to see if the property was popular enough for a TV show. One can consider this the unofficial pilot story arc for the TV show due to the fact that this version of Arabian Nights is the show’s theme song and a bunch of stock music and clips were used in the opening and show itself. Many people consider this film to be a great failure and on the same level as Little Mermaid 2 (that wouldn’t come out for another 7 years)! OUCH!!!! I 110% DISAGREE!!!!!!! I believe that this is actually one of the best Disney sequels. Does it have nitpicks and problems? Yes, but they’re quite minimal. Ladies and Gentlemen this is Return of Jafar!!
As the film’s title implies Jafar is released from his lamp and seeks vengeance upon our heroes. The story mostly focuses on Iago and his redemption. I really like the fact that this film avoids most of the pitfalls that would plague the later sequels. Return doesn’t just rehash the source unlike Mermaid 2. It tells a genuinely new story and focuses on a character the audience wouldn’t expect and giving that character more depth and dimension than ever before. The film recognizes that Aladdin’s story is over and doesn’t force him to be the focus of the film through a series of contrivances such as bringing his father back into the picture after it was clearly established that he was dead. I really like how the film focuses on a theme that’s not really discussed in Disney films. The theme of redemption. The feelings of guilt and the difficult choices that Iago has to make are genuinely dramatic and serves Iago’s relationships with the other characters, the climax and ending very well.
There are even more characters this time around so I’m only sticking to the important ones so no Abu, Sultan or Carpet or even Rajah and Razhoul.
The Princess of Agrabah is still the jewel of the desert and she gets more involved at the end. Instead of being stuck in an hourglass she tries to snag the lamp, but to no avail. Her character is also expanded by her learning to trust Iago.
The Genie is back, but unfortunately Robin Williams isn’t. He was replaced by Dan Castallaneta who is most famous for his work as Homer and Grandpa Simpson. Castallaneta does his best trying to keep the spirit and warmth of Williams’s performance alive and for the most part he succeeds, but at the end of the day he’ still no Robin Williams. He still does a good job though and would continue to play the character in the TV show and the Kingdom Hearts series.
I have no problems with Al being a supporting character this time around. it’s great to see him again and to see how his life has changed. He’s still extremely important to the story because it’s his kindness and forgiving nature that was key for Iago to change and become a hero.
The title character. He’s back and he’s basically a god. The thing that separates this film from other sequels is that the original villain didn’t die in the first one so the original villain can come back and kick ass once again. The same thing can’t be said for the other villains of the sequels because they’re almost unbearably lame. This prevents those other films from doing what sequels are supposed to do and that is raise the stakes and threat. With Jafar’s return this film does just that! The heroes barely defeat Jafar again. This time Jafar was going to win, but through his underestimation of a brave parrot he met his end once and for all!
The hero of this film! This is quite possibly one of the greatest supporting characters Disney has ever had! Yes you read that correctly. This character starts out by dropping Jafar down a well and decides to scheme his petty schemes and to be as selfish as can be. His failure to trick Aladdin and coincidental run in with a bunch of thieves set a chain of events in motion that will make Iago see the power and value of friendship and the meaning of selflessness and true loyalty. The film does a really good job at the fact that it doesn’t have Iago turn good after one good deed. It takes time for people to even have a chance at changing. The film has Iago doing multiple good deeds and the more good deeds and the more people give him the benefit of the doubt the more inclined he is to change. When Jafar threatens to torture him if he doesn’t betray Aladdin the viewer can tell how terrible he feels for betraying the one person who believed in him when no one else did. The culmination of Iago’s selflessness comes when he comes back to stop Jafar even after the fact that all debts have been paid and all guilt has been absolved. He comes back because he genuinely cares about these people (much like Captain Jack in Dead Man’s Chest) and he pays the price by getting seriously injured by Jafar’s fire eyebeams and with one last effort is able to kick Jafar’s lamp into the lava killing the evil genie once and for all! Having Iago kill Jafar was absolutely brilliant!!!!!!!!! What better way to have Iago cut ties with his former owner and tormentor?
While the story and character aspects in sequels must be kept high the same thing cannot be said about the more technical aspects of the film. It’s a direct to video film of course the music and songs aren’t going to be as good, but that doesn’t make them bad songs. In fact the majority of the songwriters of this film were actually songwriters on the Little Mermaid TV show so it made sense to me that these songs were very competent compared to other songs in Disney sequels.I know these songs don’t have very good lead ins becuase it may seem like the characters just say a line and start singing a song that was relevant to the conversation, but the songs themselves are very competent.
There’s another interesting tidbit about this song. Howard Ashman actually wrote several verses to this song. It was originally planned to have this song sung at various points in the original film to help make the movie flow better. It was understandably cut from the film because the song would have actually hurt the pacing of the film as opposed to help it. This particular verse would later be the theme song for the TV show. A great song to open the sequel and it welcomes us back to Agrabah! Sorry the song’s a little short the link is the only good one I could find on such short notice.
This is Iago’s big song. Yes I know Gilbert Gottfried can’t sing, but who else is going to have that type of voice. Besides I smell a double standard if people willingly took their families to the movie theatre to listen to Larry the Cable Guy annoy the hell out of them for 2 hours in Cars 2 and then say Gilbert Gottfried is annoying. If you can put up with Larry the Cable Guy you can put up with only an hour of Gilbert Gottfried. Anyway, the song itself is okay and sets up Iago’s new lease on life well.
This song makes me feel a little uncomfortable because of the racial stereotypes Genie turns into, but he turns into pretty much everybody including white people European and American and it was clearly not intended to offend so it’s not as bad as i made it sound. The song itself is a very sweet song about how Genie would rather be with his friends than anywhere else!
This is my favorite song in the film! This is a great part of Iago’s development because he’s using his skills of deceit for good and helping someone with his talents. The reverse psychology of the lyrics is enhanced by Gilbert Gottfried’s great performance by singing the lines in a very snarky pessimistic manner. Jasmine falls for it hook, line and sinker. She even starts to sing a counter duet with Iago. A really nice song.
Even though Jafar only got a mock version of a previous song in the original the songwriters for this film more than made up for it in this song. Johnathan Freeman is great and truly captures the fact that Jafar has pretty much transcended the powers of a traditional genie and that he is now more powerful than any other Genie. Also Genie is weakened by him being freed which doesn’t help his situation. The imagery that goes along with this song is a perverse version of “Friend Like Me”. Instead of showing them how friendly he is Jafar shows them that the have absolutely no hope.
Being a direct to video sequel the animation is obviously not as good as the original. With that being said the animation is still very solid and looks so much more fluid as opposed to the lazy flat and angular designs of today’s children’s animated shows. At least they actually have creative designs and in a sense look like people.
This is my favorite Disney sequel. It’s genuinely new story and great advancement of unlikely character from nuisance to true hero is a very satisfying thing to see. I love it! Stay tuned next time where I go in chronological order by reviewing the TV show!!!
VERDICT: 4 evil lamps out of 5