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Alfonso Ribeiro defends Will Smith's Genie and has message for 'Aladdin' critics

When it comes to playing the Genie, Robin Williams left some big shoes to fill. But according to Alfonso Ribeiro, "Will's got some big feet."
Image: Premiere Of Disney's "Aladdin" - Red Carpet
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 21: Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro attends the premiere of Disney's "Aladdin" at El Capitan Theatre on May 21, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)Kevin Winter / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Disney's live-action "Aladdin" has raked in nearly half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, so needless to say, it's proved to be a massive hit.

However, despite that, one of the film's leads has faced more than his share of criticism since before the movie even premiered over Memorial Day weekend.

Will Smith as the Genie
Will Smith as Genie in Disney's live-action "Aladdin."Walt Disney Studios

The problem? Will Smith, who plays the beloved blue Genie, is being compared to the man who first brought the character to life in the 1992 animated feature, the late Robin Williams.

But one of Smith's biggest fans — and one of his closest former co-stars — has something to say about that!

"I went to the premiere! I thought he did a great job," Alfonso Ribeiro recently told Us Weekly. "He was fun. He was him. He was his version of that character, and I like the fact that he wasn’t trying to do Robin Williams."

Ribeiro, who wasn't the only former "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" star to attend the premiere, raved about his pal's performance — especially given the long shadow Williams cast.

Months before the film's release, Smith shared some fan art on Instagram that showed an illustrated version of his Genie alongside the original. In the caption, he wrote, "I know Genies don’t have Feet... But you left some Big Shoes to fill. R.I.P., Robin!"

But in his interview, Ribeiro stressed that Smith "wasn't trying to do anybody else. He did Will, and Will's got some big feet!"

Will Smith delivers his own take on Robin Williams' famous role in "Aladdin."
Will Smith delivers his own take on Robin Williams' famous role in "Aladdin."FilmMagic, Getty Images

As for those who just can't keep themselves from comparing the two iconic actors, Ribeiro had some blunt advice.

"I think that you have to recognize that there are more ways to play a role," he argued, adding, "I would say this: If you’re so locked in and only want to see Robin Williams, don’t go see the movie."

For those fans, the animated classic is always available for a re-watch.

As for the rest? Most seem to like what they've seen on the big screen despite any early bad buzz Smith faced. While the critics score for the film at Rotten Tomatoes is just 56 percent, the actual audience approval score is an outstanding 94 percent.