On the 11th of August 2014 the world lost one of the most talented comedians and actors of the recent time, with the tragic passing of Robin Williams. As someone who grew up in the 90s, Williams was someone who you would watch regularly in great family films that were loved by many from Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji, Hook (for some reason its popular to hate this movie now but I still love it) and Aladdin. As I got a little older I saw a different actor in Williams from the goofy family comedian to a man with incredible range from comedy to drama and even thrillers, Robin Williams really was talented. It is hard to think of any actor who could match what Williams offered on screen.
We are now in a day and age where movie studios are looking to reboot or remake popular films and franchises and it looks like some of these remake will be on Robin Williams’s classics. A Jumanji remake was announced with the only man whose movies make money regardless of the quality of them, Dwayne Johnson, and will be released in December 2017. Despite casting The Rock I believe this movie will suffer due to the love for the original, lack of interest in a sequel and love for Robin Williams. Reports are saying this will be a new version of the story with the game being an online game rather than being a board game and will take place in the game and the real world, though I do not think it will succeed. To me it is one of those movies that do not require a remake given how the movie still holds up even today. As someone who reviews films I will see this movie but as someone who loves the original movie and has the upmost respect for Robin Williams, I really do not want to.
Again in this day and age of remakes we have seen Disney Studios make incredible live action versions of their original classic animated films. In particular with The Jungle Book demonstrating incredible technology and Beauty and the Beast destroying the Box Office. With this success Disney has already announced a live action remake of Mulan, The Lion King and Aladdin. And with remaking Aladdin comes the massive dilemma of casting the role made iconic by Robin Williams; The Genie. Robin Williams put such a personal flavour on the Genie that it would be an impossible task for any actor to take on the role, regardless of their personality or gravitas. Unlike Jumanji where the Rock is not playing Alan Parish meaning he can create a new character, whoever takes on the role of the Genie will be compared to Williams and in the eyes of the public will probably never be good enough.
Recently it was announced that Disney were considering Will Smith to bring the Genie to life again, and as to be expected there was Internet backlash. When thinking about who could play the Genie Will Smith’s name never crossed my mind. I thought about Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey and even Dwayne Johnson just to name a few. Actors who had an element of gravitas about them that could bring to life the big personality of the Genie. Then I began to think about what would be wrong with these actors. Eddie Murphy is Donkey and will always be Donkey, Jim Carrey could be a little too similar to Robin Williams with his over the top nature and Dwayne Johnson might sound too much like himself. As you can see it is easy to come up with names but it is even easier to find flaws with them.
After hearing Will Smith’s name I thought back to the character he was in the 90s, that big personality on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the man who punched an alien and the badass cop Mike Lowrey in Bad Boys. He was a big personality. Whilst he is a different personality to any Robin Williams created, maybe different is a good thing. If we hear Smith’s voice performing ‘Prince Ali’ and we are reminded of Williams and not thinking it is a Williams’ impersonation then the casting will be perfect. There are a lot of negatives around Will Smith and a lot of positives, the big one for me is he is nothing like Robin Williams, which is something the role desperately needs. Movies like the Lion King have the luxury of bringing back James Earl Jones to voice Mufasa but this is a luxury not afforded to Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin. If you can’t have the original would you prefer an impersonation or a recreation of the beloved character?
I am not here to advocate for Will Smith to win the role, that will be Disney’s choice but I believe that he is an interesting choice. The issue people have is if the actor is too similar to Robin Williams they will complain that is doesn’t bring anything new too the role. If the actor brings a new flavour people will complain that it is too different. Morale of the story is the Internet will complain so looks for the positives that could come out of this casting. I believe who ever they cast needs to be able to bring something new and make the role of the Genie their own, just as Robin Williams did.
Who would you like to see voice the Genie in Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin?
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