In some of the weirder entertainment news we’ve seen in a while, Will Smith has reportedly been cast as the Genie in the upcoming live action remake of Disney’s Aladdin. It’s hard to say if he’s a good pick, because we don’t really know what a live action Genie will be like. The original animated role was a giant blue figure somewhat like a friendly ghost, voiced by the legendary Robin Williams. We don’t’ know yet whether Smith will play a more human version of the Genie, whether he’ll simply voice an animated creation, or whether there will be some kind of motion capture combination. Either way, it’s a pretty bold move by Smith given that his last few years of action haven’t quite met his standard of success.
Collateral Beauty, an emotional rollercoaster of a film that came out late in 2016, was probably one of Smith’s worst movies. That’s not to say he had much to do with its failure though. Indeed the cast was full of very capable actors, including Helen Mirren, Ed Norton, Kate Winslet, and Keira Knightley, to win a few. Naomie Harris and Michael Pena were also on board! Yet as one critic wrote, the failure of the movie was all the more grievous for the waste of its superb actors. This was a pandering and over-emotional film that was at the same time sort of dull and boring, which is not a good combination even in the best of circumstances. Smith actually did quite well with pretty poor material, but it’s hard to believe this isn’t a film he’d rather not have done in retrospect.
Suicide Squad was another disaster, and perhaps a particularly disappointing one given the potential of superhero (or in this case supervillain) movies to spark franchises and licensing opportunities. Wonder Woman, for instance, is the latest superhero to make it big in the form of Gal Gadot, and already the character has become a sensation. A Wonder Woman titles is featured at gaming sites online, where the comic book image of the character enhances an arcade slot machine. And there’s already a sequel in the works for the new film – not to mention further appearances in projects like Justice League. For Smith and the other actors involved in Suicide Squad, however, there appear to be few opportunities like these (though interestingly enough there was a similar slot reel based on the characters). The film was received poorly enough that any franchise opportunities were probably stopped dead in
Concussion was probably Smith’s best triumph in the last three or four years, in part because it was a good film but also because it at least seems to have coincided with an uptick in attention for head injuries in football. While it’s doubtful that a movie will be nudging any actual NFL figures to take action, we have seen more players retiring early as a result of CTE concerns. This is at least a version of what Smith and the folks behind Concussion likely hoped to accomplish, and it seems as if the debate over the NFL and concussions is now only just beginning. For his part, Smith put on a bit of a bizarre performance (his accent was a little bit much for a lot of viewers). But it was still a fairly successful movie, albeit not the Oscars contender Smith may well have hoped to have on his hands.
This is not to get carried away. Smith is still one of the most entertaining and marketable stars in Hollywood, and if he knocks the Genie role out of the park it could be one of the biggest things he’s ever done. But it’s quite a risk to take on this particular role given how iconic the animated version (and Robin Williams’s voice acting) is – particularly on the heels of a few sub-par years.
That said, we can’t wait to see what Smith does with the opportunity.