‘Aladdin’ Teased at CinemaCon, Will Smith Won’t Imitate Robin Williams

By Brent Lang

Will Smith will put his own stamp on the Genie, Disney executives promised at CinemaCon on Tuesday while unveiling a behind-the-scenes look at its live-action remake of “Aladdin.”

Instead of imitating Robin Williams’ rapid-fire improv and celebrity impressions, Smith will inject the magical wish-granter with a little bit of the Fresh Prince and a little bit of Hitch. He also, as the footage shown Tuesday demonstrates, does not make a terribly convincing woman when dressing in drag.

Smith’s spin on the Genie isn’t the only big change in this “Aladdin.” Director Guy Ritchie, best-known for testosterone-infused flicks such as “Sherlock Holmes” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” is leaning into the action sequences.

“He’s able to make it hot,” said Smith in an on-camera interview. And, indeed, the footage showed a kinetic camera following Aladdin (Mena Massoud) running, jumping, and leaping across the rooftops and through the tangled alleyways of Agrabah as he evades the Sultan’s men.

“Aladdin” will also get a feminist makeover. Princess Jasmine, who in the 1992 animated film, had little to do save for moon about the palace, is made of tougher stuff in this version. Naomi Scott, who plays the role in the live-action version, said that in the remake “Jasmine is strong and speaks her own mind.”

“Aladdin” will also feature new music, lots of dancing and pageantry, and familiar favorites such as “Friend Like Me” and “A Whole New World.”

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Disney received a rapturous reception when it took the stage at CinemaCon, the annual exhibition industry trade show taking place this week in Las Vegas. The studio has released a dozen movies that have grossed in excess of $1 billion over the past six years, and has several promising upcoming blockbusters on its slate, such as “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” It’s not just money that’s made Disney a favorite of theater owners. The studio is adamantly opposed to plans to release movies in the home weeks after their big screen debuts — an initiative that rivals such as Warner Bros. and Universal support.

“The Walt Disney Company is committed to the theatrical window. Period,” said Alan Horn, the studio’s chief, to sustained applause.