A blue-skinned Will Smith is Genie in Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin, and the internet is unhappy, confused and amused. The recently released trailer gives a glimpse of the Hollywood star playing the buff and blue jinn who first appeared in Disney’s 1992 animated feature-length production. Robin Williams voiced the character in the animated movie.
Ritchie’s version, set for a May 24 release, is the latest Disney effort to adapt its animated productions as live-action films. The blockbuster success of Tim Burton’s live-action Alice In Wonderland (2010) inspired the production house to turn Cinderella, The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast into live-action features, all of which struck gold at the box office in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively. Coming up this year are Burton’s remake of Dumbo (1941) and Jon Favreau’s remake of The Lion King (1995).
Since the release of Michael Bay’s Bad Boys in 1995 and Roland Emmerich’s science-fiction blockbuster Independence Day in 1996, Smith has ruled the box office with back-to-back hits through the 1990s and the 2000s. A series of commercial failures, coupled with critical backlash over big-ticket films such as After Earth (2013), Suicide Squad (2016) and Bright (2017), seems to have influenced the chatter over the new Aladdin film.
“Why is he so cgi, why did he even necessarily have to be blue. Aladdin and Jasmine have different outfits, why not just Will Smith in a cool genie outfit,” an user noted about the new blue Genie. But in exclusive photos released by Disney in December, this was exactly how Smith appeared as Genie – without the visual effects treatment and as he naturally appears, wearing a blue costume. That too invited negative responses.
Ritchie wanted his Genie to look like a “muscular 1970s dad”, he told Entertainment Weekly in December. “The great thing about the role of the Genie is that it’s essentially a hyperbole for who that individual actor is, so it’s a wonderful platform and tapestry for an actor to fill his boots on,” Ritchie said.
Taking note of how Robin Williams infused his personality and brand of comedy into Genie in the 1992 animated film, Smith said, “The thing that will be the major addition from me playing the Genie is the hip-hop base.” Smith drew from the smooth-talking, street-smart characters he played in the late 1980s and ’90s. A Disney executive reportedly described Smith’s Genie as “part Fresh Prince, part Hitch”, referring to his stint as a rapper in the late 1980s as part of the duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and the 2015 comedy Hitch.
For now, at least, Smith’s Genie has caught the fancy of Twitter’s funny people.