Will Smith's Genie in the live-action version of Aladdin has received mixed reviews among critics, with some calling his character frightening, others applauding his performance, and a handful drawing the inevitable comparison to Robin Williams, who voiced the part in the animated original. Despite the various impressions, the actor decided he wanted to re-watch his latest project among those who wield Aladdin's box-office influence—the audience.
Smith secretly attended a showing of his latest film in Calabasas alongside his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and his children Jaden and Willow Smith, per TMZ. Just after the lights dimmed in theater, the Smith family took their seats to avoid any unwanted attention. However, as the credits began to role at the end of the showing, Smith stood up and received a warm welcome from fans, who approached him for selfies and handshakes.
Aladdin has received a number of negative reviews from critics, citing the underwhelming CGI and the surprisingly "panto‑production small" scale of the sets. The box-office response, on the other hand, has exceeded expectations. The $112 million it's brought in over Memorial Day weekend exceeds the previous $89.4 million expectations.
For Smith, the film marked one of the highlights of his illustrious career. During an interview with Vanity Fair, the actor detailed his experience working on Aladdin and admitted that despite the intimidating Robin Williams parallels, the film was "one of the greatest experiences of my professional career" and has helped him "find meaning again."
"I discovered that Robin [Williams] infused all of his stand-up comedy personality into Genie—and for me, the old-school hip-hop angle was my tool to make him my own," Smith continued. "Hip-hop was where I was centered with the music, and that’s where I could inject my persona and add my own flavor in a way that would allow me to pay homage to Robin, capture the nostalgia from the original movie, and be able to create my own take on Genie. That’s when my version of Genie was really born. It left some room for me to give the audience something new and special."