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Aladdin
(1986)

Director: Bruno Corbucci   
Cast:
Bud Spencer, Luca Venantini, Janet Agren


Just think about what goes through your mind during a typical day, and you'll quickly see a pattern. During your morning commute, you think to yourself, "I wish that car in front of me would speed up." While you are at work, you think to yourself, "I wish I didn't have so much work to do." When you get home, you'll be thinking, "I wish I didn't have to prepare dinner." In other words, you spend a good part of any day wishing for something you didn't have. It's no wonder that for hundreds of years, practically all of us have been tickled by stories in various media about people who get the ability for their wishes to come true. You probably think that if you got that ability, you would have it made. Or would you? Let's say that you got the ability to have some wishes come true, whether it's from a genie or a monkey's paw. What would you wish first? Well, I think a lot of people would wish that they could win the lottery. But watch yourself! If you simply say, "I wish I won the lottery," that could be interpreted by the wish provider that not winning the grand prize would be okay, and you would instead win a lesser prize from the lottery board, maybe just a few dollars. Okay, maybe you would just say something like, "I wish I had a million dollars." But saying it that way would also possibly not be that wise. The wish provider might think that depositing it in cash right at your feet might be okay. That might not sound bad, but think about it carefully. The wish provider might deliver it to you in one dollar bills. Maybe even in pennies. Can you imagine the trouble it would be to clean all that up? You might have to waste an extra wish to do so, if you had more wishes. And you might screw up that wish as well and make things even worse.

From what I have learned over the years, from stories like The Monkey's Paw to the Wishmaster movies, supernatural forces that give out wishes often have a sick sense of humor. I have often wondered throughout the years what I would do if I was suddenly given the power to wish for whatever I wanted, since I don't have a very exciting life that would make me think of what else to do. I am pleased to announce that after all that thinking, I have come up with the right thing to say should some supernatural force give you the opportunity to wish for whatever you want. First, you should make sure you turn fate into your favor by arranging to get as many wishes as you want. The proper way to do it would be to tell the supernatural force, "I wish that every wish I subsequently write down with four exclamation marks written after it would come true." This way, you wouldn't make the mistake of blurting out a wish without thinking about it first. Also, the writing of four exclamation marks after your wish would assure that something you write, but don't want to come true, doesn't come true. After all, you don't write four exclamation marks in your writings very often. Okay, the unlimited supply of wishes is assured, so the next thing to do is to make sure you don't make a foolish wish. So you would then write down, "I wish that I would from now on be warned in a clear way before making a wish if the wish I am about to write would seem foolish to an outside observer reading or watching about my wishing and subsequent experiences from the wish!!!!" This way, you would know if you had a wish in mind that would cause problems with you or the cosmos if it came true. So remember those two key wishes, should you come in contact with some wish-giving supernatural force. All I ask in return is that you send me some wishes my way.

As you can see, my life is so pathetic that I desperately hope for some supernatural force to come into my life and give me the tools to better myself. So you can probably imagine that when I came across a video Aladdinof the movie Aladdin at my local Value Village, I was happy for the opportunity to watch someone with the ability to wish for whatever they wanted. But there were other reasons why I was excited by my find. One reason was that it was a movie from The Cannon Group, produced by my favorite producing team of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Another reason was that the actor playing the genie in this Italian production happened to be Bud Spencer - half of the comedy duo of Terence Hill & Bud Spencer that made movies like Crime Busters and Watch Out We're Mad so enjoyable. On the other hand, when I saw Spencer going solo before with the movie Soldier Of Fortune, I didn't have a great experience, so when I sat down to watch this particular Spencer vehicle, I prepared myself for the worst just in case. The setting of this telling of Aladdin is not in the Middle East, but in Florida. A fifteen year-old loser of a youth with the name "Al Haddin" (Venantini, Exterminators Of The Year 3000) works at a junk store, and one day a delivery of some new junk to the store includes a lamp recovered from a shipwreck. Cleaning the lamp, Al releases a genie (Spencer, of course), one that is willing to grant any wish that Al commands. It doesn't take long for Al to get everything he wants - a Rolls Royce, a local girl he admires, the ability to beat up some bullies that have been harassing him - but as the days go by he finds that the genie's limitations as well as unwanted attention by mobsters and others seeking power are bringing just as many problems for Al as the genie is solving.

Based on that above plot description, you might think that Aladdin plays out in a fairly standard and expected way, with Al getting into conflict with the major antagonists early on and spending the remainder of the movie struggling against these antagonists. But that's not how it plays out. Although Al and the genie have some brushes with the mobsters in the first hour or so of the movie, they only start to get an idea that there is something up with this big bearded fellow around the end of this portion of the movie. During this same period of time, the local police hassle Al and the genie several times, but thanks to the genie's powers the two pals are able to get out of every confrontation easily and quickly, and the police never seem to get a clue that they are dealing with some kind of unknown power that needs to be handled differently than usual. Because the various conflicting forces are real slow in getting their acts together, it results in the fact that there is no real story in this first hour of the movie. Instead, this portion of the movie is more or less a collection of vignettes, with barely any threads connecting them all together. There is a lot of stuff in the movie that has absolutely no consequence. For example, there is one part in the movie where some newly introduced bad guys kidnap Al and hold him prison with a bunch of other children, intending to sell Al and the other children to people in other countries. Al uses the genie to save all the children, and subsequently the incident is quickly forgotten and never brought up again. (And since there have been many real news reports detailing what real child kidnappers do with children they traffic worldwide, this subplot manages to be surprisingly tasteless for a family movie, as well as having no consequence.)

I suspect that the reason the plot of Aladdin stays at a standstill for so long comes from the fact that five writers (including director Corbucci) are credited; probably no one writer had significant power over the others, so as a result everyone's big ideas got in the final draft of the screenplay, and no one big force taking the results and asking for rewrites towards the main story. It would also explain things like how the genie first appears before the movie's first five minutes have played out, leaving us no time to get to know Al and his life before getting the genie. Other characters in the movie, such as Al's mother and grandfather are woefully thin as well. And when the conflicts with the police and the mobsters are finally resolved, there's still twenty or so minutes to go, which means that another conflict has to come out of the blue and needs to be resolved. So what we have here is a very sloppy script, though it's not without some charms. While the other characters may not have been written well, Spencer's genie character does sparkle. He has been written to have heart - he seems genuinely interested in getting to know his master, and talks throughout in a friendly way to just about everyone he encounters along the way, only saying stuff like "piggy face" to those who are truly bad. The likeability of this genie character is enhanced by Spencer's performance. He is apparently speaking English here instead of being dubbed, and while a few words from him are mangled by his Italian accent, overall he gives a warm and likable performance. Even when he isn't saying anything, some of his facial expressions are very funny to see, and the charisma he brings to every scene he's in by itself makes up for many of the movie's shortcomings.

In case you are wondering, yes, Spencer does have a couple of scenes where he demonstrates the slapstick fight skills he became known for in his films with Terence Hill. They are not his best cinematic fight scenes, but they are amusing to watch. And there is a lot more amusement to be found in the rest of Aladdin. There are the special effects sequences, for example. When a car suddenly starts levitating, it's so obviously being lifed by a forklift just out of the range of the camera, and when it's higher in the air and floating above traffic, the car is a badly imposed image. And when the genie freezes two mob goons in their tracks, the actors playing the goons try their best (but failing) to stay absolutely still. While these are definitely low tech effects, they have a charm to them that makes them funny to watch. It's also funny when Al, thanks to the power of the genie, becomes a karate expert, a basketball star, and a champion waterskier, because in each instance he is always photographed far from the camera to try and hide the double being used. Other scenes were planned to be funny for the audience, but become funny in a manner that the filmmakers did not intend, like how several people crash their cars because they are shocked to see Al, being driven by an invisible genie, in a moving car with no one in the driver's seat (boy, an innocent bystander flipping over their car is real funny!) Although the prime audience that was planned for Aladdin was young kids - I do see them eating up the idea of a youth with the power to get anything he wants, and they'll really love Spencer's genie character - their parents will be charmed and find a lot to enjoy about the movie as well. Though I would advise these parents to have a long talk afterwards with their kids about that kidnapping subplot, however.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: Crime Busters, Solider Of Fortune, Watch Out We're Mad

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