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With Disney+’s launch earlier this month and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, there’s never been a better time to binge old favorites. This week, we’re looking back at Disney hits and catching up on movies we missed the first time. Join us for a walk down memory lane.
When I first launched Disney+ on Nov. 12, giddy at the prospect of all it had to offer, I froze up.
Mere clicks away were Star Wars, the MCU, new original series, and Disney Channel movies I’ve been yelling about for 15 years. It was too much power, too many options. There are movies I’ve spent more time missing than actually watching, and having unfettered access to them in perpetuity was daunting. What if they don’t hold up? What if Disney+ content becomes as ubiquitous as Friends — always on, always streaming, in a perpetual spiral of nostalgia, but never remotely gone?
In the end, the first thing I ended up streaming was Aladdin and the King of Thieves, a straight-to-video sequel from 1996 (partly because of this article, but that is neither here nor there). The third installment in what one may boldly deem the Aladdin trilogy, Aladdin and the King of Thieves reunites our hero with his estranged father Cassim (John Rhys-Davies), a fellow kindhearted thief who has ascended since Aladdin’s childhood to becoming leader of the notorious Forty Thieves. Aladdin and Cassim pursue both a better-late-than-never father-son relationship and a piece of treasure Cassim has coveted for years.
The original Aladdin was my favorite movie in early childhood (I have the fifth birthday party cake pictures to prove it), but it was one that my family never owned on VHS. I don’t know when or how we came to own Aladdin and the King of Thieves, but it became my go-to for repeat viewings to scratch that Aladdin itch until the original came out of the Disney vault for a DVD release in the early-2000s.
For the intervening decade or so, I watched and rewatched King of Thieves regularly. I admired Jasmine’s colorful new outfits (sadly, she does not get to do much besides model and support her man in crisis), left Agrabah for adventures to the Thieves’ lair and the mysterious Vanishing Isle, chuckled at the Genie’s impressions of Walter Cronkite and the Marx brothers long before knowing who those people were. (The movie also planted the seeds of what is now a full-fledged crush on Aladdin’s hot dad. Sorry.)
Unlike The Return of Jafar and so many Disney sequels, this threequel surprisingly captures the original Aladdin‘s flavor (no doubt with help from Robin Williams reprising his indelible role as genie). It tackles thoroughly grown-up issues, like Aladdin’s fear that he’ll be a poor husband and father because of Cassim’s example, and Cassim’s own regret over their lost time and how things could have been different.
Each song is an earworm on par with other Disney classics, from the Broadway fanfare of “There’s a Party Here in Agrabah” to the emotional “Out of Thin Air” and the villainous energy of “Welcome to the 40 Thieves” and “Are You In Or Out?” (The score is also on Spotify and makes for excellent background music.)
The movie packs a helluva lot of plot into a tight 77-minute run time (current Disney execs, take note). After the thieves attack the wedding, Aladdin and Jasmine discover an oracle and use their one question to ask it about Aladdin’s father. Aladdin follows the lead and finds himself face-to-face with the man who ruined his wedding — and 39 more who want him dead. There’s a trial by combat, multiple betrayals, an island that lives on the back of a giant turtle, and a Hand of Midas, which turns everything it touches to gold. It is, quite frankly, an absolute banger of a movie.
I’ve technically had access to this movie my entire life, thanks to that dusty VHS still in my parents’ basement, but I needed to see that streaming on Disney+ wouldn’t change my enjoyment or tarnish the memory. With such a glorious library of titles to look back on and endless time in which to consume them (this is a lie, we are dying), we’re going to spend a lot of time revisiting old favorites, and we need to know it’s worth it. I’m happy to report that it is, and I’m ready to dive into the rest of the library now.
Aladdin and the King of Thieves is now streaming on Disney+.