Voiced by Robin Williams in the 1992 animated film, the blue wish-granter is played by Smith in Guy Ritchie’s remake, and seems to be meant as a spin on Smith himself (plus topknot and goatee), as well as his most famous characters.
Speaking to EW, Ritchie described the Genie as an exaggerated version of the actor playing him, and the description of Smith’s take on the character says the actor drew inspiration from his roles in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Hitch, as well as Independence Day and Bad Boys, adding a bit of “hip-hop flavor” to Disney history and taking a “more self-aware” approach to the material.
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The Genie, supernatural being that he is, has always had a bit of self-awareness about him, but the explicit reference to Smith’s films as reference points for building the character suggest a broader, meta quality that should prove one of the biggest changes that Disney has allowed in its remakes, which generally have been copied over line-for-line. (Granted, Williams’ performance is iconic enough that any attempt at facsimile would be a lost cause, anyway.)
The biggest question prompted by Smith’s comments about his take on the Genie is exactly what the musician-turned-actor is most famous for. Fresh Prince is still regularly cited in Smith’s talk show appearances, but apart from that, Smith’s most name-recognizable character may just be Hitch. (A quote from a Disney executive describes the Genie as “as part Fresh Prince, part Hitch,” as in the characters, not the general vibes of the properties they’re from.) How is that possible when Smith has been in Men in Black, in Independence Day, in Wild Wild West? Well, maybe not Wild Wild West, but the idea that the people want more Hitch is the kind of question in line with “why were the Minions more popular than Baymax?”
At the very least, though, we already know that Smith, no matter what role he’s in, is a force of nature, and Aladdin’s life is about to get flipped, turned upside down.