Among the large number of live-action Disney remakes slated to be released in the coming years, one of the most anxiety-inducing films on the schedule is the Guy Ritche-helmed Aladdin. Besides the obvious and inevitable race issues that will come with the film one big point of debate among fans is what to do with the Genie.
The 1992 animated film featured the late Robin Williams as the Genie’s voice actor in what would become one of his most iconic roles. Williams’ charismatic, funny, and musical Genie is universally adored and whoever takes over the role has some big shoes to fill. While nothing is set in stone, all signs are pointing to Oscar-nominee Will Smith.
Smith’s list of achievements is long one, most notably he was the first ever rapper to win a Grammy for his hit Summer Time and after making the transition into acting earned Oscar nominations for his lead roles in Ali and Pursuit of Happyness. In recent years he’s had more misses than hits, turning out disappointing films like Collateral Beauty, Suicide Squad, and the abomination on film that is After Earth. But don’t let his recent run of bad form fool you, Will Smith is one of the best entertainers of his generation.
Personally I think the Fresh Prince will crush it as the flamboyant and charismatic Genie, but the thing is: his performance doesn’t matter. Robin Williams’ performance was so iconic and perfect that no matter who they cast fans will be upset. When an announcement is made people will take to their social media accounts to express their disappointment and rage at the choice but it won’t be because of who is cast, it’ll simply be because whoever it is is not Robin Williams.
Thankfully Disney has already addressed what could have been an even bigger issue when they announced that they would be casting Middle Eastern actors for the lead roles of Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. The producers seem to be doing a good job of avoiding Hollywood’s rampant white-washing problems, but they still have to proceed with caution in regards to how they portray those of other cultures.
At the end of the day it’s important to give Smith, or whoever ends up being cast, the benefit of the doubt. We will all want to compare the performance to Williams’ 1992 display, but it’s crucial that we at least try to look at it objectively. These Disney remakes are going to consume our lives for awhile, whether we like it or not (don’t worry, remakes aren’t the devil) so we might as well try to enjoy them.
What do you think? Does Big Willie have the charisma to do the Genie justice, or will this be just another disappointment from the Oscar-nominee? Who else would you rather see take on the role? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @DylanNoPants.