You Might Think The Lead Character In Aladdin Is… Well, Aladdin. But Not According To The End Credits Of Disney’s New Live-Action Remake.
Unlike the animated 1992 original, the genie is the first name seen in the new cast list – which is understandable given that Will Smith is the biggest name in the project by some distance. Disney has opted for two relative newcomers for the roles of Aladdin and Jasmine – in the shape of Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott.
It was reported at the time of casting in 2017 that around 2,000 actors and actresses had been reading for the two roles over several months.
“The casting process was intense,” Massoud tells BBC News. “I’ve been watching this film since I was a kid, and when I saw the audition notice I threw myself at it.
“And I didn’t hear anything for four months, so I was a little disappointed, but I kind of moved on as any actor has to.
“Then when we heard back it was an intense [process], but I’m glad I’m here now.”
But the finished product has broadly gone down well with critics, if the first reviews are anything to go by.
“On the whole, Ritchie’s adaptation wisely does little except add human flesh to the bare bones of what was always one of Disney’s strongest stories,” said Steve Rose in The Guardian.
Geoffrey Macnab of The Independent described it as “a rip-roaring, old-fashioned matinee-style spectacle
In a three-star review for Digital Spy, Ian Sandwell said it was an “enjoyable retelling”, but was less keen on the “overlong, drab and CGI-heavy finale”.
Will Smith’s portrayal of the genie has also defied the sceptics, with Ben Lawrence in The Telegraph saying he “does a terrific job in bringing his own brand of manic chutzpah to the part”.
“Indeed Smith offers some much needed amplification to a film which (a third of the way through) is in danger of being lost in its over-prettified storytelling.”
Smith arguably has the biggest weight of expectation, stepping into the intimidating role of the genie – made famous by the late and much-loved Robin Williams.
“I was terrified of that,” Smith admits. “Robin didn’t leave much room for improvement in the genie.
“So the first thing I thought about was that it was going to be live action, so I knew that would give so many opportunities and that it would feel different.
“They captured something that was something for a generation. When you’re marking people’s childhoods. “I wanted to create an homage to Robin and to the performance, with the songs and everything that people would still connect, but then be able to add the new hip-hop flavour.”
Fans were initially alarmed that Smith’s genie wasn’t blue – as Robin Williams’s original animated character had been. But Smith soon used his Instagram account to reassure fans that, panic over, he was going to be blue.
Check me rockin’ the top knot ponytail vibes,” he wrote, adding: “And yes, I’m gonna be BLUE!”