Good news! Disney has settled on a main cast for the live-action Aladdin. So, prepare yourself for another kick to the childhood.
The casting announcement is somewhat bittersweet – where many feared Hollywood whitewashing would strike again and turn the famous middle eastern characters into slightly tan white people (cough, Prince of Persia, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Gods of Egypt, Noah, cough) literally, there’s so many there’s a Wikipedia page with a whole list. Check it out if you’ve got some time.
However, despite director Guy Ritchie (who may or may not set the movie in the London borough of Agrabah) claiming that it has been difficult to find a young male lead who can act and sing AND is of Middle Eastern or Indian descent (clearly he has never heard of Bollywood cinema), they have finally cast Mena Massoud, set to star in this year’s Jack Ryan TV series alongside John Krasinski. Go ahead and google him, he’s pretty spot on for a live-action Prince Ali.
So far, so good.
Next up, Princess Jasmine, to be played by the newly appointed Pink Ranger, Naomi Scott. Born and raised in London, Scott’s casting is a little further from character than Massoud, she is from Gujarati heritage, so it’s not as bad as Rooney Mara’s casting as Tigerlily. But, it’s not good, either.
It’s here we reach the third and final announcement from the Aladdin camp, and the most disappointing. A character loved by all, portrayed by an actor loved by all, Genie was arguably the best part of the original movie, so this casting was THE most anticipated with this reboot. So, who will follow in the legendary footsteps of the late Robin Williams?
Will Smith. Yes, the Fresh Prince himself.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with Will Smith. But, as an actor, he’s as hit and miss as they get, playing Will Smith in 90% of his movies. There’s no faulting the actor’s charisma, he’s charming and funny – however, Smith is not a comedian as Williams was, and therefore is unlikely to be able to riff as many superb comedic utterances as the late actor. Of course, many will defend this choice by saying this Aladdin is not a remake but a reboot, and we cannot expect it to be like the original, however it begs the question that with such an iconic portrayal of the genie in the 1992 animated classic, how can Smith’s performance be anything more than underwhelming?
Like any film, the quality should be judged on the final product, however Guy Ritchie is not off to the greatest of starts.