In the conclusion of Aladdin, we last left our heroes safe from the clutches of Jafar, the evil sorcerer turned genie by the end of the movie. As implied in the first movie, Jafar’s havoc spree was not ended, but rather put on pause until the next person found Jafar’s lamp and asked for wishes. In the most predictable storyline move possible, The Return of Jafar features even more chaos from the deliciously sinister villain. The idea of an evil, all-power genie is fantastic, but his destruction is under the limits of a kid’s movie. Jafar’s powers are limited in an obnoxious plot contrivance as well – one of pure nonsense, clearly attempting to keep a lower rating – and the movie suffers for it.
Jafar is the real draw of the movie, and his gleeful evil absolutely permeates the film when he’s “on camera”. There’s a bit of fun with wishes being asked for, as Jafar grants wishes at a severe price, and of course with a diabolical agenda. He also gets a fun musical number as he goes toe to toe against everyone’s favourite blue genie; it’s easily the best song in the movie, giving enough melodic throwbacks to the original movie, and it’s fun that he gets a song at all. Jafar being a sorcerer and a genie is quite entertaining, but the plot limits him. The plot is more focused on re-introducing characters, than making an emotionally compelling movie, in other words, it’s a by-the-numbers sequel.
The problem with the movie is it’s pure fan service. Sure, it gives a look into what happened after the events in Aladdin, and brings back the important characters, but none of it is surprising. Even less surprising is the end of the movie, in which Jafar obviously must lose to bring that sappy, family friendly Disney ending. In the movie’s only twist, we follow the adventures of Jafar’s pet bird for what seems like half the movie – a baffling decision honestly. He is of course given an annoying music number to stave off the viewer’s boredom, but it’s not enough. While watching the movie, I found myself hoping to God that Jafar would show up again and cause more chaos, only to discover that his pet bird had another annoying line.
There is no nuance in the movie thanks to its safe plot, and appearances from loveable characters barely mitigates the pain. The only bright side is that the characters are at least true to their original nature. It’s another story in the land of Agrabah, and it’s appealing to return and visit our beloved animated cast, even if the art itself is much poorer, and wonky looking. Perhaps there is enough entertaining bits to keep a small child on the edge of their seat, but certainly not enough for a grown adult. It’s a kid’s movie, and another uninspired Disney sequel. The only passable Aladdin sequel is King of Thieves, and I doubt they will ever make a better sequel than that one. Best to skip The Return of Jafar, unless your curiosity gets the better of you.