COMPANY: Chesler/Perlmutter Productions
RUNTIME: 84 mins
PLOT: To save the world, Aladdin must wager everything to get an evil Djinn back into its lamp before it can open a Gateway that will unleash thousands of its kind.
REVIEW: With my recent new-found love for classic fairy tales (thanks solely to being addicted to the new ABC show Once Upon A Time), I've been eating up these fairy tale B-Movies this year (Gretl: Witchslayer, Black Forest, Grimm's Snow White, ect), and out of all those classic fairy tales, Aladdin is easily my favorite. So when I heard SyFy was doing their own Aladdin-themed movie titled Aladdin and the Death Lamp, of course I got excited to watch and review it, even though I was also a bit worried, knowing how some of their movies tend to turn out.
Right off the bat, Aladdin and the Death Lamp does an excellent job with combining 'fantasy fairy tale' (giant killer beasties, mystical amulets, and the magic of the Djinn) with 'treasure hunt adventure' (ancient book they discover that acts as a code to finding long-lost treasure, plenty of swash-buckling sword fights, and races against time). Actually, many parts of the movie felt very much like I was watching a low budget version of 1999's The Mummy, or at the least a low budget made-for-TV sequel to it; the movie included a protector that tries to stop the Djinn from being re-awakened, our main group of heroes that try to stop it once they accidentally unleash it upon the world, a meaner second group of people that wish to use the creature for their own means but don't quite understand its true power, and all of that is wrapped up within adventures through a desert and a race between the two groups to get to a mythical location first. If all of that sounds like it appeals to you, then this is probably one you'll want to check out. There's even a very Mummy-esque musical score which was put to good use throughout the movie, adding a very fitting tone to many of the scenes.
Even though most of the cast seemed to be unknowns (at least unknown to me and since, as of the time of writing this review, IMDB refuses to put up a listing for this movie, there's really no way to tell one way or the other), they were all pretty above-average for this kind of movie, never once taking me out. The evil bad guys were great at being evil without being distractingly over the top, while Aladdin and his group of heroes were charming and even funny at times. The only person I recognized here was Kandyse McClure from Battlestar Galactica (Dualla on that show), and she actually was the one weak part when it came to the actors. Not that she was bad per sey, just she didn't really have much to do other then stand around in the background most of the time (until the final 15-20 minutes where she finally came more to the forefront), and when she did speak, it just wasn't as good of a job as I've come to expect after watching her for four seasons on BSG. Still, it was nice to see her in something again other then one random episode of the Canadian-made show Republic of Doyle (side bar: check that show out if you can - hilarious, action-packed, and filmed in the city I live in!).
As for the Djinn itself...well this ain't no fun-loving match-making singing Robin Williams Genie, ohhh no, this is more like the evil Jafar Genie from the second movie, if he lost the ability to speak and communicated via growls and roars. This shapeshifting lizard-headed bad boy just loves tricking whoever its 'master' happens to be, causing evil mischief and killing people in inventive ways before sucking up their souls for dinner, all the while biding its time until it can open a gateway to Hell to flood the earth with his thousands of evil brethren. And while there's not too much CGI effects work to be had in this one, what we do get (which is mostly just the Djinn itself and his various magic trickery) looks pretty good and better then average for a SyFy movie, so kudos there; there's even a scene where it changes into a really cool-looking large tiger-like creature to rip someone's throat out. As a slight side note, I'm also really happy that they decided to go with the original name of Djinn and not the much-later, more socially known name of Genie, as Djinn is indeed what they originally were referred to before this last century or so. Sometimes it's the little details that can add so much weight to a movie. Of course they added in their own little B-Movie twists to the legend of how a Djinn and its powers work, but that's to be expected and it actually added to my enjoyment via the Cheese-side of things to see how all the wishes would backfire or be twisted. In that regard actually, parts of the movie seemed almost a bit like Wes Craven's Wishmaster.
Now, when it comes to the end of the movie (well, by 'end' I mean the final 15-20 minutes) they kind of start shooting out twists in the plot at rapid-fire, some of which are really predictable considering how some aspects of the movie played out earlier, but there were a couple really good ones in there that I was taken aback by – there's a death I knew was coming but came a lot earlier then I thought it would, an unexpected death, as well as double-crosses, triple-crosses, and hop-scotch-and-back crosses (Seriously, WTF did I even just type?), and while I knew that obviously Aladdin would come out on top by the time the end credits rolled, I was completely unsure of how he would pull it off and who exactly would be standing with him when that time came, so once again, kudos to whoever the writer was or writers were for actually keeping me on my toes for the last little bit of the movie, something that is quite rare for a SyFy Channel Original.
And while it didn't bother me at all, some people may find this movie has a bit of a slow start, as it's about half an hour in before the Djinn even shows up for the first time in his own movie (quick-cut intro aside), but that didn't bother me at all since that first half an hour was filled with some of those fun adventurous treasure-hunting scenes I talked about up above, and dealt with uncovering the mystery of this ancient tome that Aladdin and his buddy had discovered in a tomb (which of course ultimately leads them to discovering the lamp and letting loose the Djinn). But I feel I should probably mention it anyway, just for those who may not be prepared for that and are expecting evil Djinn hijinks every 5 minutes right from the onset. Also, if you're expecting any kind of faithful adaptation of the original Aladdin tale, then look elsewhere as the only similarities here is that there's a character named Aladdin and there's a Genie, of sorts, featured. But again, that's not something that bothers me personally because it was never advertised as being an adaptation.
From the moment it was announced, I was really hoping to enjoy this movie, and ultimately I ended up enjoying it even more then I had expected. Between my love for Aladdin stories and my love of the Mummy franchise, this movie hit all the right notes for me, and then threw a few extra ones in there for good measure.
10/10 rooms in the Psych Ward