Awfully Good Movies: Kazaam

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Kazaam (1996)

DIRECTOR: Paul Michael Glaser          CAST: Shaquille O'Neal, Francis Capra, Ally Walker

Kazaam poster

With ESPN's THE LAST DANCE reminding us of the golden era of basketball that was the 1990s, Awfully Good Movies' next destination in its trip through the Awfully 90s Summer is Shaquille O'Neal's infamous first attempt at movie stardom playing a "rappin' genie-with-an-attitude" by the name of KAZAAM! After his supporting role in William Friedkin's BLUE CHIPS proved that the Orlando Magic center could bring his courtside charisma to the movie screen, Disney decided to bring in the Big Aristotle to play the role of a 5,000 year old genie who's been summoned out of his lamp–er, I mean, boombox–into modern day New York City to serve at the whims of a streetwise 12 year old, with the film's story and direction being handled by former TV cop turned RUNNING MAN director Paul Michael Glaser, and the House of Mouse distributing the film under their Touchstone Pictures label to help distinguish Kazaam from a certain other Disney genie.

But unlike the late great Robin Williams, Shaquille O'Neal is not someone known for being privy to comedic improv, and while he certainly knows how to turn on the charm while selling Gold Bond powder and car insurance, that charm did not translate with either moviegoers or film critics. However, now that KAZAAM has become somewhat of an Internet sensation lately after being mistaken for a non-existent genie comedy starring Sinbad, it's as good a time as any to see if the Mandela Effect has improved KAZAAM's bad reputation in the past 24 years. And we'll give the movie this much: Shaq isn't nearly as bad here as he was swinging a hammer in a rubber metal suit while starring in STEEL…that is, when he's not rapping in one of many hip-hop tunes which were obviously composed for this movie by a bunch of old white dudes who think The Notorious B.I.G. is a WWE wrestler.

As for Shaq's young co-star Francis Capra, he quickly goes from charming to irritating, especially as the movie drastically switches tonal gears for a subplot where the boy reunites with his absentee father, only to find his long lost dad is part of a black market trade involving the most dangerous cargo there is…live bootleg recordings of rap concerts! DUN DUN DUUUUUN! Oh, and also his dad is working for a Middle Eastern stereotype villain who wants to obtain Kazaam's magic for himself, but by that point, your brain has already gone numb from seeing Shaq magically fly some french toast into his mouth. And did we mention the uncomfortable slavery subtext between Kazaam and his "master"? Yeah…probably not a good time to bring that up with all that's going on in the news, so we'll let that alone.

Now let us hope and pray that Disney doesn't get power hungry from the success of its ALADDIN remake and decide to give the greenlight to a KAZAAM remake, because we've already got LeBron James starring in a SPACE JAM sequel, and that's about all the 90s basketball nostalgia I can take right now, thank you very much.

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