Will Smith: 180 Degrees Of Separation

Fresh Prince

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The Fresh Prince. Bad Boy for life. Wicky Wicky Wild Wild West, Jim West…

This Grammy award winning and Academy nominated actor is an upbeat and engaging, smooth talking, clean cut family man whose movies have grossed over $6.5 billion worldwide. He raps, he acts, he gives to charity and votes democrat. Guys want to be him, girls want to be with him and even your Nan enjoys him. Once deemed the most powerful actor in Hollywoodland, many still believe him to be a leading light of cinema and a bankable super star. But does he really continue to warrant this reputation…?

Is there anybody on the planet who has not seen The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Who doesn’t know every word of the theme tune? Of course there is, that would be ridiculous but it was hugely successful and propelled the young rapper into the homes and hearts of America. Basically a show reel for Will Smith, The Fresh Prince’s comedy timing, slap stick and quick talking brought delight to millions around the globe but with a relatively short run of only six years, thankfully it was not long before Hollywood proper came calling and DJ Jazzy Jeff was left in the dirt.

Bad Boys1993 to 2003…

Will Smith hit the ground running with an enviable decade of movie output that saw him truly earn his star status, trading on his comedy chops and likeability to become a leading man. As con-artist Paul in Six Degrees Of Separation (’93), Smith teased at a life beyond the confines of Bel-Air and won his first leading role as U.S. Marine Captain Steven Hiller in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day (’96). The year previous it was Michael Bay who made him a star by teaming Smith and Martin Lawrence as wise cracking Miami detectives in his directorial debut, Bad Boys (’95). Improv and action set the template for Will Smith’s golden age as the loveable actor rounded out his first decade in Hollywood with MIB (’97), Enemy Of The State (’98), The Legend Of Bagger Vance (‘00’), sequels to MIB and Bad Boys (’02 & ’03) and his ultimate achievement… Ali (’01).

However, 1999 saw the first signs of a wobble when Smith famously turned down the iconic role of Neo in the (then) Wachowski Brothers Matrix saga in favour of the absolutely ludicrous, steam punk western, Wild Wild West and thus set the tone for his longevity; appalling commercial vehicles for his ego or the promotion of his increasingly annoying off-spring. This was also the first filmic decision taken post marriage to Jada Pinkett…

Wild Wild West

The biggest mistake of his career?

2004 to 2014…

With the exceptions of The Pursuit Of Happyness (’06) and possibly Hitch (’05), Will Smith’s second decade in film is in stark contrast to the trail he blazed previously. Gone are the personality and fizzing dialogue to be replaced by big budget, vacuous, product placement miss-fires. Assuming things could only get better after the experience of Jersey Girl (’04), I, Robot (’04) was a flat, futuristic two hour advertisement plagued by poor CGI. It’s only saving grace? It’s better than I Am Legend (‘07) and those terrible zombies. Despite this, one would be forgiven for looking back on this output with an ironic fondness as it was swiftly followed by Hancock (’08), Seven Pounds (’08), MIB III (’12) and the piece de resistance, After Earth (’13)! He even managed to squeeze an appearance in romantic fantasy flop, Winters Tale (’14). You simply cannot string together a run like this and still be considered relevant.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I do not dislike Will Smith. I used to love the characters he portrayed but face the facts people; he’s abandoned his true fans and his Philly roots. His need to promote the Smith family brand and openness (shall we say) to Scientology leaves me frustrated. Inevitably, he will go on to bring his old pal Barack Obama’s rise to the White House to the big screen but in the meantime does anybody really care what he is involved in? The answer is certainly no and that is sad. He needs to recapture the spark that brought him into our lives and leave the kids at home. But maybe he’s content in the ‘what are they doing..?’ ranks alongside Nicolas Cage and Robert De Niro. I for one shall enjoy his renaissance…

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One thought on “Will Smith: 180 Degrees Of Separation

  1. Pingback: Will Smith: 180 Degrees Of Separation | Ramblin Entertainment

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