Will Smith seems to have settled into a rhythm. Every three movies he does includes a Sci-Fi movie, a comedy, and a serious film. There’s no question he’s done all right with the sci-fi genre. Sure there is crap like WILD, WILD WEST and I, ROBOT. Crap that would be unforgivable if not for MEN IN BLACK, and INDEPENDENCE DAY. Well, OK, not so much INDEPENDENCE DAY. But I didn’t think Hancock was too bad. And I AM LEGEND wouldn’t have been so bad without the focus-group ending the studio tacked on.
His comedies like HITCH and, well, MEN IN BLACK have been entertaining. Although he was pretty much just a straight man for Kevin James in HITCH, and we’ve already used MIB once already so it really doesn’t count. And OTOH there are such non-classics as BAD BOYS- with or without Roman numerals- and the aforementioned WWW.
Well, at least he’s made some serious dramas such as ALI and SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION. But when you really think about it, ALI wasn’t really a high point for either him or director Michael Mann even though it was a dearly held project for both of them. And SIX DEGREES is really more of a party game than a movie- talk talk talk talk talk. And every other serious thing he’s attempted isn’t really very serious. LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE is a milquetoast example of what somebody once called the Magic Negro genre. ENEMY OF THE STATE isn’t bad but it’s Bruckheimer and Tony Scott so you could have put Ben Affleck in the role instead and nobody would have noticed. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS got a lot of props from Oprah. But if she had James Frey back on for a public bitch slapping over A Million Little Pieces being a bunch of BS, then she should have saved a few backhands for the makers of this “based on a true story” film which completely ignores Chris Gardner’s infidelity, drug use, child abandonment, and spousal abuse and which takes the “magic Negro” idea to a new level.
Wow, now that I think about it, Will Smith hasn’t made many very good movies.
Don’t get me wrong. He also hasn’t made many bad movies. None of the films mentioned are actually bad. And I think they’ve usually made some money. But if you take out MEN IN BLACK they are a steady run of three out of five stars. Pure mediocrity. Nothing challenging, nothing inspired, no great breakout performances, just a long string of nice movies.
And that seems to be the secret of Will’s personal success. He seems like a nice guy. Not a great artist, doesn’t vanish into a role, just shows up on time and does his job. And boy, has it ever worked for him. He’s done 13 movies in the last decade and his name is attached to 25 projects in development!
Well, there’s the secret of success boys and girls: be nice.
Of course it doesn’t hurt to be good looking, tall, well built, and have a little talent as well.
Being lucky as hell is also a good idea.
Which brings me to his most recent movie SEVEN POUNDS, which is available for streaming via Netflix. I’m not going to say anything about the plot for fear of spoiling any tiny surprises there may be. Smith is charming, he plays a really nice guy, and some melodrama ensues. If you like Will Smith’s movies then you’ll probably like this movie.
But it could just as easily starred Ben Affleck.