Aladdin opened in 2019 to mixed critical reviews, yet everyday viewers hailed the movie for its upbeat nature and ever-relevant thematic undertones and narrative. Opening to a 54% critics score, many argue that — though a scintillating spectacle — the remake never reached the degree of magical splendor inherent to the animated original. The question is: Was Will Smith’s Genie the movie’s savior, or just another one of its drawbacks — failing to reach the unattainable heights set by Robin Williams?
According to We Got This Covered (WGTC), Disney is looking to produce an Aladdin spin-off about Genie. The outlet – relying on the same sources who knew a live-action Bambi was on the way and that an Aladdin remake was coming way before the announcement — reported that the studio is considering a Genie spin-off with Will Smith at the center.
The source goes onto note that the movie would feature flashbacks to Genie’s past, way before he got caught in a lamp, which could enhance the focus on the actor, over the abysmal CGI, as WGTC notes. So, does Will Smith’s Genie deserve a spin-off? Did his performance earn such an honor, as to receive a standalone Disney installment? Let’s analyze both sides of the coin.
Some critics argue that Will Smith’s performance was the life in an otherwise lifeless production
While Aladdin wasn’t the best-received live-action remake of the live-action remakes (no one can forget Jungle Book), many critics argue that Will Smith’s charisma and originality saved the film from a bleak and uninspired reliance on formula.
Smith changed the character. By bringing his own comedic flair to the table — and relying on his 1990s persona — he separated himself from Williams’ rendition in an approachable manner. Many considered this a wise character choice. One critic noted:
For all the bad press it received, Will Smith’s Genie is one of the shining parts of the film. Musically, Smith works for his big number “Friend Like Me,” but is a little flat with the opening “Arabian Nights” and “Prince Ali…” Still, Smith is playing the part with his own interpretation, which was distinct enough to stop drawing comparisons to the animated version.The Gleaner
Another critic noted that, while the movie lacked some of the original’s charm, Will Smith compensated. Brian Truitt of USA Today noted:
While there’s a certain charm missing from the revamp, Smith goes way over the top to make up for it. For those who’ve ever wondered what the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would be like as a middle-aged guy plopped into a bevy of belly dancers and hoofing swordsmen, here you go.USA Today
While some critics hailed Smith’s performance as the movie’s guiding light, others felt his character — and his CGI look — destroyed the movie’s original vibe, dampening its magical influence.
Some critics feel Will Smith was just another drawback in an already disappointing film
Some critics found Will Smith’s performance and appearance beyond disappointing, as one critic deemed Will Smith’s Genie “pure nightmare fuel.” Barry Hertz of The Globe and Mail said:
…Will Smith, the all-powerful creature is still blue, but all wrong – an alarming conflation of the artificial and real, almost like the universe detected a defect in our plane of existence and vomited up this aesthetic aberration as evidence of nature’s capacity for error. There are just some things that should not exist in this world, and Smith’s visage pasted onto a floating, endlessly stretchy blue cloud of CGI muscles and sinew is top of the list. So, yeah: pure nightmare fuel.The Globe and Mail
Another critic of Idobi went on to explain that Will Smith “did the best he could” in a performance that will work for some, but not for others. He noted that those very familiar with the original may struggle to find satisfaction in the approach, while those less familiar may be content. In short, many critics who condemned the performance hold issue with the CGI debacle, the lack of pure charisma and magic, and the difficulty that comes with paying homage to the original, while also reinventing such an iconic character for a contemporary audience.
So, does Will Smith deserve a spin-off? If the movie limits the CGI and finds a way to keep the character original, while still conjuring the same degree of childlike innocence and wonder, yes. However, the challenge is much easier said than done.