Everything I Thought While Rewatching Kazaam

Photo: Getty Images/ Hulton Archive.
Kazaam is a mid-'90s piece of, well, cinema. It was produced for children, but was almost certainly enjoyed mostly by twentysomethings just getting the hang of the inebriated space between buzzed and blackout drunk.

In it, Shaquille O'Neal — a man you might know from his Gold Bond ads, or basketball, or that GIF where he bounces his shoulders, then a cat bounces his shoulders, and the loop goes around again — plays Kazaam, a genie trapped in a boom box. Francis Capra plays Max, a 12-year-old kid whose mom is totally cool with him running around the city in the middle of the night, and who seems to have his own tricked-out junkyard. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, I rewatched the film that has a whopping 6% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Kazaam (which, remember, is the name of the genie, not the stuff that got stuck to all your clothes in the '90s) has a brief origin story, in the form of a lamp falling next to a boom box. As the lamp falls, the genie cries out, which raises the question: How much does a genie perceive from inside his lamp?
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After establishing that poor Max has to deal with bullies but keeps his spirits up by being the class clown, we're introduced to his potential stepdad. The potential stepdad is so cool, he tries to win over the tween with a Buster Keaton movie. Because apparently he has never, ever spoken with a child. Max is not a fan of his potential stepdad.

It appears '90s New York was full of almost entirely empty buildings. I'm just assuming it's NYC. I assume every city setting is Manhattan until proven otherwise, which has about a 90% success rate.

Poor Max falls through, like, four floors of a condemned building, and the bullies who were chasing him still come after him to beat him up. At this point, Max, life has done that for you.


When Max hits the boom box, Kazaam emerges partly in a Capri Sun-like tornado in the gauzy fabric of a '90s music video.
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Oh, my god, he rhymes. I forgot he rhymes.
He only does material wishes, a real capitalist genie.
Max's mom does not seem too upset that her kid was running around the city at night without a cell phone.
This movie would like you to know that, genie or no genie, Pepsi is a refreshing soft drink.

And it's time for an adventure to find dad the abandoner! A plan that can't possibly go badly.
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His dad, who very sadly didn't recognize him, thinks he's old enough to be a delivery guy. So he's a jerk and not that bright.
Max's first wish, "junk food from here to the sky," should seem impractical even to a tween. Junk food goes bad. And gets eaten by rats.
It's raining M&Ms, hallelujah.
With a little prodding, Max goes from stranger to "my boy" with jerk dad.
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Jerk dad seems to be a music executive, and the metallics and puffer vests on the performers at his club seem more Zenon than mid-'90s.
And the movie has just become a not-so-thrilling thriller — the dad's selling bootleg CDs, and the bullies just stole one! Remember, kids: Piracy is bad.
The next morning, when Kazaam shows up at the breakfast table, Max's mom very quickly buys that he's Max's tutor. Because tutors, who are not hired by kids' parents, often show up unannounced for breakfast.
The magical flying French toast! I feel like that's the only thing I really remember from my first time watching this movie.

And now Kazaam is a rapper on stage for some reason...
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Max and his dad are on the run from bootleggers, and Max's dad is way too good at effectively punching people out for it to be just a hobby.

The bad guy is throwing Max down an elevator shaft. This is getting dark.
Kazaam, holding Max's body, gives a classic Darth Vader NOOOOOOO.
But this is a children's film, and Max is not an animal or parent. I think he's going to make it. Maybe...the power of love will save him?
Things are glowing. Is it the power of love?
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Totally the power of love. He lives! And Kazaam is free! And there's nothing strange about Max being sucked into a giant glowing Kazaam face! Nothing at all.
Max's dad is going to take him fishing! When he gets out of jail. He must have seen that in a fatherhood PSA.
In the end, Max accepts his nice, if weird, potential stepdad. Genies, bringing people closer together since 1996. And that's Kazaam, the acting origin of the Gold Bond salesman we all know and love.
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