You know, there was once a time in which we as a culture hadn't become utterly desensitized to the site of Disney anally violating its heritage with a gaffe stick. There was a time, long long ago, in which the company retained a health sense of legacy about their timeless masterpieces. I mean, when Walt was alive do you think there ever would have been a Bullwhip Griffin 2: March of the Nostril Brigade? I. Think. Not.
But enough of my mindless recollections. Flash forward to 2005, and we have Disney whoring itself at Wal-Mart display stands roughly every 37 minutes, hawking the latest in Disney Home Video entertainment that promises a return of the emotional warmth of past successes but in reality provides little but empty echoes of once-was glories. Yes, we're talking about DTV (direct-to-video) sequels to Disney classics: Cinderella 2, Mulan 2, 101 Dalmations 2, Lady and the Tramp 2, Lion King 1 1/2, The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2, The Stitch Movie, etc.. A virtual cornucopia of crap up and down the board, with no end in sight, diluting the company's inimitable library of animated treasures by associating them with watered-down garbage cranked out without thought or heart.
But as I mentioned before, it wasn't always that way. That's why in 1994, when Disney released their first major DTV sequel, Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, it was a celebratory event. The original movie had been released two winters ago, to massive box office and critical acclaim, and had become a huge hit on home video. The promise of a sequel had millions of fans chomping at the bit for more exciting Disney entertainment and, perhaps more specifically, more Robin Williams genie-inspired hilarity.
Well, they got neither. The sound of millions of jaws hitting the floor could be heard across America when these fans popped Aladdin: The Return of Jafar into their VCRs. Gone was the exquisite animation of the original film, replaced with substandard product you might find on your typical dopey television cartoon show. There were songs, but not a single one was even remotely memorable (the ones that stick out most are weak retreads of tunes from the original film, like Arabian Nights and A Whole New World). The story is weak and forgettable: Aladdin is trying to get used to life in the palace, the parrot Iago returns seeking sanctuary, and a thief named Abi Mal finds Jafar's lamp, who is looking to scratch out a little revenge on Aladdin and his pals. It's not a horrible story, but it certainly is far from anything remotely interesting or compelling.
And perhaps most significantly, Robin Williams did not return to his role as the genie. Cheesed off by his treatment by the Disney brass during the filming and marketing of the original film, Williams told the Mouse House to go pound sand and was replaced by The Simpsons-regular Dan Castellaneta, who gamely stepped into Williams's shoes. He does an adequate job, but Robin Williams is certainly missed here.
But the problems aren't the voices, the mediocre songs, the lack of story, the sub-standard animation, the .... actually, those are the problems here. Aladdin: The Return of Jafar is a limp, lifeless affair that's best left rotting alone and unloved somewhere in an abandoned lavatory.
Originally produced for home video in 1994, Aladdin: The Return of Jafar is presented in a fullframe aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The quality of the video is adequate but not very notable. Some debris is noticeable throughout the transfer: little specks of white here and there that nonetheless pop-up at a fairly regular rate. The image seems fuzzy at times, while at others sharpness levels are fine. Colors vary between drab and mute to oversaturated and blooming, with all points in between represented throughout the transfer. The video looks like excellent VCR quality, which is to say it is a thoroughly mediocre transfer.
The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, with separate French and Spanish language soundtracks. The audio just as non-impressive in the video, with a flat mix planted directly in the center channel, with little separation and directionality noticeable. Dialog is satisfactory and clear, with some opening up of the mix during musical numbers and big zany action scenes. Otherwise, this is a weak mix.
We start out with the usual array of set-top games that are sure to impress nobody. Wish At Your Own Risk, in which you can use your DVD remote to wish for various and things and watch the Genie provide them for you. DisneyPedia: Wishes Around The World is another interactive bit in which you use your remote to select a "cool looking wishing coin", in which the origin of wish-making customs from around the world is analyzed in various short video pieces. Disney's Song Selection allows you to sing along (with on-screen lyrics) to five of the movie's songs. Finally, there are Sneak Peaks which includes trailers for other Disney product, including Bambi: Special Edition, The Incredibles, and Mulan II.
Unless you are a Disney completist, a huge Aladdin fan, or a sucker for punishment, I can't see any good reason to purchase Aladdin: The Return of Jafar. The quality of the presentation of thoroughly mediocre, the extra features are sparse and uninteresting, the film itself is a major dud. You can feel comfortable in giving this DVD the good old El Paso.