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Aladdin’s Will Smith opens up a whole new world, raps his rendition of ‘Friend Like Me’

By Alexis L. Loinaz
Aladdin Will Smith as the Genie Disney

Yeah, Will Smith is really feeling the blues these days.

The funnyman is getting ready to uncork his sapphire-tinted take on the iconic Genie in Disney’s live-action remake of Aladdin, which opens later this month. We’ve already seen glimpses of him in blue and in the flesh (the jury’s still out on that), previewed some of the film’s sweeping vistas, and been offered a snazzy taste of its rip-roaring set pieces.

Now, we’re getting a sneak peek at Smith’s version on the film’s big musical centerpiece. During an appearance Monday on The Tonight Show, Smith unleashed a few verses from the opening of the showstopping song “Friend Like Me” (which we briefly saw in the trailer), giving fans the first real inkling of how the actor— who takes on a role made famous by the legendary Robin Williams in the animated film — plans to make it his own.

“I got presented the idea to play the Genie in Aladdin, and the first thing is, hell no!” he cracked to Jimmy Fallon. “You know? It’s like, Robin Williams smashed that role, you know? And when you look at things like that, you try to find, what would you do differently? What would you add to that?”

The answer apparently came pretty easily.

“So I looked at it and the first thing was, I didn’t feel like I wanted to touch it,” he explained. “What did it for me when I was messing with the music, there’s a song ‘Friend Like Me’... when we went in, I had them grab the ‘Impeach the President’ by The Honey Drippers and [use] the drums...”

At that point, Tonight Show mainstay Questlove kicked off a drumbeat and then Smith launched into his rendition of “Friend Like Me,” which started off with some of Smith’s signature Fresh Prince-esque freshness and ended with Fallon springing to his feet to whoop out a standing ovation.

That wasn’t all that was in store: The film also dropped a clip in which we see the titular character, played by Mena Massoud, trying to get that whole wishing thing going... but not without a few warnings from Smith’s Genie.

Aladdin is yet the latest in Disney’s bid to breathe new life into its properties by whipping its hit animated movies into live-action films — something that's yielded boffo moolah for the Mouse House: 2017’s Beauty and the Beast eked out a far-from-beastly $1.2 billion worldwide. Try asking your BFF Genie for something like that while you’re at it.

The streak isn’t stopping anytime soon: 2019 already saw a live-action Dumbo take flight to $340 million, while a Lion King redux is set to roar in July.

Aladdin, meanwhile, is getting ready to roll out the (magic) carpet when it materializes in theaters on May 24.