Iago: You’d be surprised what you can live through.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Disney’s first-ever straight-to-video sequel has an interesting history behind it and it all started with this one pamphlet advertising said sequel.
For those who grew up on Disney movies particularly finding great joy in Aladdin to know that one of the greatest Disney villains was going to return gave audiences a great deal of excitement as Disney never had done a sequel to anything before this outside of The Rescuers Down Under. As time went by though, it was revealed that the movie was not going to be a theatrical release but rather straight-to-video. However, people were still optimistic since Aladdin was very good in its storytelling and characters. Unfortunately, when the movie finally came out it proved to be a serious step backward. While not the worst it didn’t prove to measure up to anything that the original Aladdin set.
The story involves Aladdin back once again adjusting to his new palace life. Meanwhile Jafar’s trusty parrot Iago escapes from the lamp they were both imprisoned in from the last movie. He refuses to help Jafar escape and makes his way back to Agrabah and tries to convince Aladdin that he has gone straight but secretly yearns for a position of power. The Genie also returns having missed his friends. However, a thief named Abis Mal (get it?) finds Jafar’s lamp. Jafar agrees to grant Abis Mal his wishes if he helps him get revenge on Aladdin. Thus they frame Aladdin for killing the Sultan while Jafar locks up everyone else.
The plot on paper is not a bad one and Jafar’s plan to get revenge is a very effective one. However, it lacks the same depth. It all feels very rushed. Aladdin and Jasmine don’t have the same chemistry they previously had and while they try to bring the same energy the Genie had in the previous movie it doesn’t work.
Aladdin is also not the main focus. They seem to focus more on Iago. He is given an arc about him being torn between good and evil. While he doesn’t want to go back to Jafar he’s not about to run to the heroes either and walks the line between good and evil throughout the movie.
People often liked Jafar taking on different forms in the previous movie. And they do that here too however they have no idea how to execute it having him take on the form of just about anything.
The genie is one of the other problems in this movie. Instead of Robin Williams returning to voice him we have Dan Castellaneta who is well known for voicing Homer Simpson. And to his credit, he does do a very good Robin Williams impression. But a lot of the energy, magic, and animation of the Genie came from Robin Williams’ talent and nobody can imitate that.
Jason Alexander as Abis Mal was pretty funny and Alexander’s voice acting is the primary benefactor to that. Despite trying to be intimidating he’s all around very inept and bumbling.
The movie really ends rather abruptly with Aladdin just out of nowhere deciding that he wants to see the world with Jasmine. This would go on to be the framing device (and essentially the pilot) for the Aladdin TV show. This would have been fine if the movie were advertised this way but given that it was advertised as a direct sequel to the first it has to be judged as such.
Return of Jafar was a huge letdown when it came out but looking back at all the other Disney sequels we got years later it’s not nearly as bad by comparison. There is some effort put into it but given that it was only a TV pilot movie and it was advertised as a sequel to such a big film it doesn’t hold up. If you’re in favor of watching all the Disney sequels this is a good watch to know what to expect down the road.