I cannot even express how excited I am for Disney's live action Aladdin. Full disclosure, Aladdin is in my top 3 favorite Disney movies of all time. In other words I have high expectations for this movie. I used to watch Aladdin cartoons every morning at 7am before I had to get ready for elementary school. That's how I would partake in my breakfast as a child, by accompanying it with Aladdin. With that being said, I was so amped when the teaser trailer came out. Then came the first real trailer for the upcoming live action...
I was all in until I saw the genie...*sigh*. I want so badly to love it but I just can't pretend that I'm sold on Will Smith as the genie. I'm just not. The genie, famously played by Robin Williams is a character that is extremely hard to cast. You need a quirky, hilarious, wild, flamboyant, though vulnerable, loud mouth yet caring and lovable genie. That is the character in it's essence. The genie pretends to be this cool hip being but in reality he just wants more than anything for someone to want more from him than wishes. He tries to play it cool but he really wants someone to care about him not about what he can give them and the first person who comes along that fits into that mold is Aladdin. Now Robin Williams most likely is the only person who can master that role. I will say though that the Broadway actor James Monroe Iglehart is a close second. I personally saw him perform live when the traveling Broadway show came to Boston and he was great as the genie. He was incredible. He captured the character just right for a live performance. If Robin Williams is a 10, Iglehart is a 9.
The thing with Robin Williams is that we have this romantic notion of idolizing him forever on this pedestal because he was the original genie and he passed away. No matter what we do moving forward, no genie is going to compare to Robin Williams. It's just the way it is. Williams is a great comedian but the reason he is the best genie is because he molded the character into what it is. He actually improved and ad-libbed parts of the genie into what he became known for. There are stories of Robin Williams voicing the character where the producers just let him role with what came naturally to him and so Williams made him what we all know as the genie. There will never be another genie like him, literally because well he passed away, BUT we can at least try to keep with the theme of who the genie is. I have my doubts about whether Will Smith can portray the genie in a vulnerable state. Sure, he can play the fun, cool, hip guy that the genie portrays up front to get attention, but can he play the insecure being beneath the genie who at his core just wants a real friend?
Bottom line. Yay on the live action Aladdin. Nay on Will Smith as the genie. I'm not into. I want to be so badly but I'm not. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt but I think they should have cast James Monroe Iglehart in the movie, at least he has experience with the character and worked on the craft. How did Smith prepare for the role? I just don't think he's quirky enough. Cool, yes, funny, yes. Quirky and vulnerable? No.