I am usually not one to judge things before they come out, and this is true for this post. I am seeing the remake of the 1992 Disney animated classic, Aladdin, this Thursday night. While I am very stoked and excited to see the movie—I have been looking forward to it since they announced it last year—I am skeptical to see if it will live up to the original.
I think the movie will be a success, but I am a little mixed on the casting choices. Let’s start with the one of the most iconic Disney characters to ever hit the screen—the Genie. In my opinion, I think the Genie in the 2019 version might be hit-or-miss. In case you don’t know or have been living under a rock, Disney cast Will Smith as the Genie. Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVE WILL SMITH! I think he is one of the world’s greatest actors and can pull almost any role off. When it comes to an iconic character like the Genie, though, I have some reservations. Why? I am a 90s kid. I grew up watching the original Aladdin with my dad. Actually, one of my earliest childhood memories is watching that movie on VHS with my dad. I am used to a lovable, blue (I will cover that point in a minute), almost smartass kind of goofball with a borderline adult sense of humor. Of course, this is all credited to the late, great Robin Williams. So in that regard, I wish Will Smith the best of luck, because he has got some massive shoes to fill! Robin Williams’ Genie was a charismatic larger than life character. I sincerely hope and pray that Will Smith does not try to outdo Robin Williams. Simply put: HE CAN’T! That’s not a jab at Will Smith; I don’t think anyone could compare to the original Genie given the chance. Robin Williams set the bar so insanely high with his off-the-wall Genie that any attempt to even remotely match, let alone do better, is an insult. If Will Smith tries to do a better Genie than Williams, I think the movie will fall on its ass. However, I am hoping Will Smith puts his own quirky spin on the character and make it his own.
One other thing about the Genie I am kind of iffy about is the Genie’s color. Before you jump to conclusions, let me elaborate. I have zero problems with a black Genie. None whatsoever! But in the 1992 classic, with the exception of when the Genie changes into different people, he is blue throughout the entire movie. Will Smith’s Genie on the other hand, based on what I have seen through trailers, is blue in some scenes and has a vapor trail. In other scenes, Will Smith is his natural color (black) and has a full body. I think this might be a little off-putting or confusing to the audience. “What’s going on here? Is he black? Is he blue? Is he being serious? Is he sarcastic?” Actually, those last two points I think are interesting because those are two traits Robin Williams’ Genie had, so it might be a good thing if he is a mix of serious and funny. But as for the color changing thing…the Genie is a mystical, magical entity and not a chameleon. I get that Disney wants diversity in its cast, and that’s fine. I encourage that, seeing as Disney has recently built up a reputation for whitewashing. But in my opinion, if you want the Genie to succeed, stick to one color. Having said that, I am still holding out hope for the new Genie. Honestly, I think if anyone can pull this iconic character off and give it new light, it’s Will Smith.
I’d also like to bring up the casting choices for Aladdin and Jasmine. I think they got it right with the choice for Aladdin. Aladdin is played in the 2019 version by an actor named Mena Massoud. He emigrated to Canada when he was a kid. So where is he from originally? None other than Cairo, Egypt. That’s right, folks! We have a “real” Middle Eastern actor playing a Middle Eastern character! Mena Massoud, based on what I have seen and heard in trailers, actually looks and sounds Middle Eastern. He is dark-skinned and actually looks the part. Kudos Disney! And the fact that the original story is of ancient Middle Eastern descent (it was originally part of The Book of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights) makes more sense. Actually, according to what I have read, the story of the Genie and Aladdin was much more recent, in the 18th Century.
Disney essentially took a thousand-year old story and made it their own. The character of Jasmine is not in the original texts. She is pure Disney imagination. Speaking of Jasmine…she is being played by a British actress named Naomi Scott. This is where I am a little confused. Naomi Scott does not exactly look Middle Eastern and she has a very heavy British accent. Not that there is anything wrong with being British, but I really think Disney maybe could have done maybe a little better there.
I mentioned the Disney whitewashing controversy a few paragraphs ago. This is where I think the 2019 remake actually might be a little superior (casting-wise anyway) than the original. In the 1992 movie, all the characters were portrayed as white and had distinctly American accents. Not to mention the fact Aladdin does not have nipples in the 1992 version. What a freak! But all kidding aside, as much praise or critique I am giving the casting in the 2019 movie, I have no idea how it will play out with all-new people doing all-too-familiar characters. Will Smith might be great and he might suck. Naomi Scott might be the best Princess Jasmine ever. Mena Massoud, as much praise as I am giving him in this post, might wind up sucking and ruining the movie for me. I don’t know. I will reserve judgement until I see the movie.
The soundtrack is also a legit concern I have. I have not heard any songs from the 2019 version in their entirety but we do have some teasers. Based on what I have seen, read, and heard, classic songs like Prince Ali, Friend Like Me, and obviously A Whole New World will be in the movie. Here’s where I am hesitant. Will Smith can sing, but I know his singing style to be rap. I don’t know about you, but I think if Will Smith tries to rap a Disney song, it’s going to crash and burn. I am most concerned about A Whole New World, though. I know the song the love of my life, Allie, and I chose as our official relationship song is A Whole New World. I hope this new version is good. I do not think it’ll be as good as the original, since, again, it is such an iconic Disney song and scene in general. I mean, I do not know about the rest of you, but I know when I think Aladdin, I think of two things: the charismatic Genie and the magic carpet ride scene with Aladdin and Jasmine singing that song. So in that sense, I am a little nervous but hopeful.
So to wrap this up, I hope this movie is good. I doubt I will think it is better than the original based on nostalgia alone, but I do have high expectations and hopes for this movie. I can’t wait to see it with Allie as a date, since we share a certain bond over A Whole New World. I am welcoming a new take on an old movie. So I want to hear from you. How do you think the new movie will hold up to the original, if at all? And what are your feelings on the casting choices? Thanks for reading!