Disney’s remake train is still chugging along mightily, and the next stop on this nostalgia tour is Aladdin.
The studio unveiled a never-before-seen clip from the upcoming remake at CinemaCon Wednesday, featuring Will Smith’s take on the much-loved number “Friend Like Me.”
And while it’s certainly a little odd to hear Smith’s Genie boast that we’ve never had a friend like him when we literally did have a friend almost exactly like him, in 1992, Smith’s enthusiasm sells the song well enough.
The exclusive footage (which had incomplete VFX and sound, per Disney) opens with Aladdin (Mena Massoud) in the cave of wonders, having been instructed to obtain the lamp and touch nothing else. Abu, however, picks up a red gemstone, bringing forth fire and lava all around the cave. Just as all seems to be lost, they’re whisked away by a magic carpet.
Back on solid ground, Aladdin examines the lamp and notices something swirling inside. As he rubs off the dust to get a closer look, an enormous blue genie emerges. “Oh great one who summons me, terrible one who commands me, I stand by your oath, loyal to your wishes three,” he booms.
Aladdin barely has time to be intimidated before the Genie assures him that he’s kidding, magics a drum set and a trumpet for Abu, launching into “Friend Like Me.”
Those concerned by Smith’s blue Genie look may be relieved to hear that it actually looks just fine in this context.
By the end, Aladdin and Genie find themselves dancing in a cave full of animals and fireworks, until Genie magics everything back to the way it was. “You can clap now,” he says, miming a mic drop.
The video then transitioned into a sizzle reel of other scenes from the movie: Aladdin asking Jasmine (Naomi Scott) to trust him and join him on the magic carpet ride, Jasmine’s tiger licking Aladdin’s face, Jasmine and her friends dancing at a ball, Aladdin sprinting across rooftops in a high-speed chase.
In contrast to The Lion King, Aladdin seems less like a shot-for-shot recreation of its ’90s original than an attempt to recapture some of its energy.
It approximates the colorful freneticism of the original number, cycling through eye-poppingly bizarre scenarios so fast we can barely keep up — but the specific details of those scenes are different.
Likewise, Smith’s performance seems to owe a lot to Robin Williams’, but feels more straightforward, relying less on wacky voices and impressions and more on Smith’s easy charisma.
Those concerned by Smith’s blue Genie look may be relieved to hear that it actually looks just fine in this context, perhaps because it’s no stranger than anything else on display in this sequence.
Here’s hoping it works just as well in the rest of Aladdin. The film opens May 24.