Oscar Off-Key #1: A Friend Like Me

oscars off key

This week, leading up the Oscars, we look back on some of the worst production numbers of Oscar shows past. First up, “A Friend Like Me” from “Aladdin” (1992), as performed not by Robin Williams, but by Nell Carter.

Why Nell Carter? No idea. “Gimme a Break!” had been off the air six years by that point. She had done Broadway before and after, but I can’t find much on what she was doing circa 1993, which adds to the randomness.

First off, a parade of guys and banners and stuff come in and waste a full minute of our time. I guess they are meant to imply the “Prince Ali” number from the movie, but totally making me think of one of the digressions in “The Star Wars Holiday Special.” This already makes no sense, because Aladdin was only a prince because he had the genie. But now he’s meeting the genie for the first time? Aladdin rubs rather sexily on the lamp, and Nell pops out. She flubs her line. Then the singing…I don’t know, I guess she’s going for a bragging, above-it-all attitude, but she comes across as low-energy and bored. Does she know this isn’t rehearsal?

Then, because this is a song from a children’s movie, she summons a pack of male strippers in tight gold pants to dance for her amusement, and yells at some skinny bitches. The only point in the song that would naturally lead to a dancer doing something: “Well, looky here!” leads to…nothing to look at. Then some kids tap-dance really out of sync, while Nell hollers and chases one for no reason. A bunch of boys chase the girls away (but it’s Ladies Day!) and have a goddamn hip-hop break. I don’t know why they used so many kids in this number – the genie is trying to impress us with what it can do, and a lot of the kids are awful.

Finally, FINALLY there are 30 seconds of what this number could have been – a bunch of Broadway style tap/swing dancing with the big brassy music going. Then there’s a fat joke and your ability to have an erection disappears to the sound of Nell Carter shrieking “Give it up!” except it sounds like “Get it up! Get it up!” and you’re now cursed to hear that every time you’re naked. Forever. Everybody falls down. My brain falls out my nose.

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