You ain't never had a friend like the Genie. This big blue puff of smoke of bursts onto the scene and wins our hearts right away. So what's up with this guy and his wish-granting powers?
Genie of the Lamp
In many ways, the Genie is a lot like other famous wish-granters that have come before him. He's a big, blue shapeshifter who has the power to dole out wishes to whoever rubs his lamp. You've met characters like that before.
But there's more to the Genie than meets the eye.
From the first moment we meet him, it's obvious this guy is a showman. He cracks jokes, morphs from one form to the next to get laughs, and breaks into song when the mood suits him. We're talking huge Broadway-style production numbers, folks. When the Genie tells us that he's been cooped up inside that lamp for 10,000 years, we get the feeling that this is his idea of cutting loose.
Hey, you try being cooped up in a lamp for ten millennia and see if you don't act a little wacky when you get out.
The Genie is also loyal to Aladdin right off the bat. He sticks by the kid and advises him throughout the film. He's the one who keeps pushing Aladdin to tell Jasmine the truth and to be himself. In a way, the Genie's kind of like a stand-in for the audience. He's rooting for Al to win, and he's willing to throw in a little magic to help him along the way.
But why? Well, maybe the Genie knows from the moment he meets Aladdin that he's a good guy. A diamond in the rough, if you will. Since Aladdin was able to enter the Cave of Wonders to get the lamp, he must be A-Okay, right? A good egg in a world of rotten tomatoes.
Contrast that with how the Genie reacts to seeing Jafar for the first time:
GENIE: You know Al, I'm getting really—I don't think you're him. Tonight, the role of Al will be played by a tall, dark and sinister ugly man.
JAFAR: I am your master now.
GENIE: I was afraid of that.
Unlike the Sultan, the Genie is actually a pretty great judge of character. He's able to size his masters up with a quick glance. He may have to obey them, but he doesn't have to like them.
It would be easy for the Genie just to hang out like a big old Santa Claus granting wishes and staying out of the way. But the Genie gets some hopes and dreams of his own. They go something like this:
ALADDIN: What would you wish for?
GENIE: Me? No one's ever asked me that before. Well, in my case, ah, forget it.
ALADDIN: What? No, tell me.
ALADDIN: You're a prisoner?
GENIE: It's all part-and-parcel of the whole genie gig. Phenomenal cosmic powers! Itty-bitty living space
ALADDIN: Genie, that's terrible.
GENIE: But, oh, to be free. Not have to go, "Poof! What do you need? Poof! What do you need? Poof! What do you need?" To be my own master, such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world!
Turns out being trapped inside a lamp and being forced to grant other people's wishes for all eternity is kind of bummer. Heck, it's kind of like slavery. You thought living in your parents' basement was bad—try being stuck inside a teeny, tiny lamp for centuries.
Not only does this all set up a nice subplot for the big blue guy, but it also raises the stakes a bit for Aladdin. Will he use his wishes to help his friend the Genie? Or will he hog them all for himself in the end? His status as a Disney hero depends on the answer.
Free at Last
In the end, Aladdin and the Genie prove that they're true friends. They each offer to sacrifice for the other:
GENIE: Al, no problem. You've still got one wish left. Just say the word and you're a prince again.
ALADDIN: But Genie, what about your freedom?
GENIE: Hey, it's only an eternity of servitude. This is love. Al, you're not gonna find another girl like her in a million years. Believe me, I know. I've looked.
ALADDIN: Jasmine, I do love you, but I've got to stop pretending to be something I'm not.
JASMINE: I understand.
ALADDIN: Genie, I wish for your freedom.
GENIE: One bona fide prince pedigree coming up. I—what?
ALADDIN: Genie, you're free!
Aww, doesn't that just our warm little hearts. The Genie is willing to stay a prisoner in the lamp for Aladdin. Hey, he says, what Aladdin's got is true love. Do you think that happens every day? But Aladdin knows he can't turn his back on the Genie after all the big guy has done for him. He follows through with his promise and wishes the Genie free. Hey, it's pals before gals, Jasmine. Sorry.
In some ways, Aladdin is like a buddy comedy between Aladdin and the Genie. Sure, Aladdin might be aiming to get the girl, but it's not until he comes through for his best friend that he's actually able to win her hand. Lesson: friends are important.
Especially when those friends are really good at granting wishes.