Guy Ritchie is set to direct and it was recently reported that Will Smith is in early talks to play The Genie in the upcoming movie. But can he match the iconic Robin Williams performance? Can he even come close?
If there is a big-name actor out there who could play this part, Will Smith may be it. We know he has a big over-the-top personality, we know he can sing, and we know he has comedic chops. Disney has already come out and said that this will be an "ambitious and non-traditional take on Aladdin," but even with all that the Internet has made their opinion known; no one but Robin Williams should ever play The Genie.
And it's tough to argue that point considering The Genie was made specifically for Robin Williams. For a 95-minute movie, there are almost 16 hours of recorded material from Robin Williams. A lot of which will never be released from the Disney Vault because of its grown-up material. This was the first time in animated movie history that it was the animators trying to match the voice acting instead of the other way around. This must have been a nightmare considering the movie is hand-drawn. The result is undeniable. It's been 25 years and I still don't get all the impressions that Robin Williams did. But that doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the film. How do you recast an actor like that?
Some animated classics are begging to be redone; The Jungle Book was a prime example. Does anyone remember—really remember—the story to the original Jungle Book? I would imagine no because the original animated movie is garbage—it's a mess of sixties animation, wayward storytelling, jazz music, and casual racism throughout. But the new The Jungle Book with Bill Murray (and less racism) got a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. Aladdin is different, in that they are adapting a movie that is already considered an animated classic, but Disney has shown they are more than up to that challenge.
I had my doubts about a Beauty and the Beast remake, especially when it came to the animation style and the voice acting. After all, how could Emma Thompson ever hope to match Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts? The answer is she didn't. Angela Lansbury is still a better Mrs. Potts. In fact, I'll come right out and say that the live-action remake doesn't come anywhere near to the quality and perfection that is the original animated movie. But that didn't stop me from enjoying it any less. I still saw it twice in theaters and enjoyed myself both times.
Robin Williams is one of the most beloved actors of his generation and The Genie is the role he may be best remembered for. No one is going to be able to recapture the brilliance of Robin Williams, but I say lean into it. A new movie won't take away my enjoyment of the original. If the story is good and the quality of computer-generated animation is there then I'm going to keep seeing these movies. Disney is going to continue to put all their resources behind these movies and they are going to be spectacles. And that's why I go to the movies— to be amazed.