Will Smith seems like he’s got a pretty decent life, but we don’t envy the task of living up to Robin William’s performance as the Genie in Aladdin, which is among the single greatest voice performances ever. The key to making his live-action version of the larger-than-life blue wish-granter work will be making the character his own, rather than replicating his predecessor. It sounds like that’s exactly what Smith is going to do after hearing his version of the classic Genie song “Friend Like Me,” which he performed on The Tonight Show.
The Fresh Prince told host Jimmy Fallon his immediate reaction when he was offered the role of the Genie was to say “hell no” because Robin Williams “smashed that role.” However, after spending some time mulling it over and meeting with the film’s director and producers, he finally decided to accept the part after “messing with the music” and making a breakthrough with “Friend Like Me.” He reorganized into a very Will Smith-esque rap set to the drum beat from The Honey Dipper’s 1973 song “Impeach the President,” which he then performed for the crowd.
If (like myself) you had never heard The Honey Dipper’s “Impeach the President” before, you can listen to it here.
As for Smith’s re-imagining of Genie’s song, there will always be a sector of fans who won’t enjoy hearing a variation of the original, but we have to say we dig it. It’s fun and it works. More importantly, the movie isn’t going to be successful if it’s only a shot-for shot, song-for-song remake, especially Smith’s Genie. It needs to stand on its own or it will be “smashed” by expectations it can’t live up to.
And besides, it’s not like this hip hop version doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy Robin Williams’ performance.
Will Smith has some pretty big shoes—or rather, a floating blue tail —to fill, but it sounds like he has the right idea how to do that.
Featured Image: NBC