Aoife Valentine – The Pursuit of Happyness
No one expects that The Pursuit of Happyness won’t have a happy ending. It’s a Will Smith movie, starring his son Jaden, and no one makes a film about a man who’s struggling to get back on his feet, and then leaves him on the ground. No one does that. What TPoH manages to do, however, is keep you intrigued and not bored, and still gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling, even though you already know what the ending will be.
Not many on-screen father-son relationships feel as real as the one between Will and Jaden Smith. That is probably because they really are father and son, but for the movie’s sake, that’s not really important. Not only is Jaden very, very cute, but it all feels very honest, and somehow, not cheesy at all. Or at least, not as cheesy as a rags-to-riches story with lines like “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, even me.” should or could be.
Will Smith rarely gets to put on his real actor clothes, he’s usually just sort… there, but in TPoH, he shows us his serious acting chops, and easily convinces you for a second that he’s a down-trodden single dad who eats out of soup kitchens. He makes you forget that he’s actually Will Smith, a movie star, married to Jada Pinkett Smith, and father to Willow ‘Whip my hair’ Smith. No one forgets Will Smith is Will Smith in Men in Black.
It’s so good that you won’t even be annoyed that happiness is spelt really stupidly, even if they did have a genuine reason to spell it wrong, referenced in the first few minutes of the film: a sign in Jaden’s day care’s window proclaims ‘JOY FUN HAPPYNESS’. Aside from all of that though, The Pursuit of Happyness will leave you happy, and what more could you possibly want from Will Smith?
Anna Burzlaff – The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Okay, so maybe this isn’t strictly a film, but if Will “The Fresh Prince” Smith taught us anything it was that rules are whack and you must always stick it to the man. The Prince is pretty much the most lovable TV bad boy that ever existed and his antics-ridden show, with its whacky characters and probably the greatest theme tune music in the history of television, is by far the best thing Mr Smith has ever appeared in.
Not only is each 30 minute episode a reminder of just how amazing the ‘90s were, there are also countless nuggets of invaluable lessons in morality to boot. After watching an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air one may learn age-old truths such as love your family or leering at girls in short skirts is wrong.
If all this sounds too deep and heavy however, fear not as comic relief is always just a Quincy Jones beat away. Will’s dorky cousin, Carlton, often finds himself the brunt of Will’s cruel practical jokes with hilarious results. Who doesn’t remember when Carlton thinks Will has been murdered and runs through the show’s multiple sets in tears of anguish, only to soon discover it was a joke all along? Oh Carlton! When will you ever learn?
The Fresh Prince taught us a variety of invaluable things. It’s probably formed the whole basis of our moral understanding of humanity and the world, not to mention given us some serious fashion ideas. Your knowledge of wrong from right and your high tops are proof of how, in the words of The Prince himself, “dope” this show really is.
Emer Sugrue – Men in Black
Wild Wild West was a cultural travesty, with it’s highlight being a maddeningly catchy song stolen from Stevie Wonder. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air had it’s moments, but featured Smith as an arrogant school kid for six whole years, despite him being 22 when it started, and The Pursuit Of Happyness isn’t even spelled correctly.
The best thing Will Smith has ever done is clearly and without a doubt Men in Black. The proof of it’s success is that is spawned not one, but two unwatchable sequels. Can The Pursuit of Happyness and Wild Wild West say that? No. They can’t.
Men in Black, in case you haven’t seen it, tells the story of a plucky young New York policeman who and chases a suspect through the streets (and off a roof), but not before getting to see him blink weird. Tommy Lee Jones shows up to question Will Smith about it, and reveals that the guy was an alien. After getting him to point out some alien weaponry, he wipes his memory and invites him to apply for the Men in Black, a secret agency policing alien life on earth. Once suited up, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones embark on a mission to save the earth.
Men in Black has everything you expect in a Will Smith film. It has action, comedy, slightly dodgy CGI, Smith being all sarcastic about stuff and a terrible single which repeats the film title over and over. What more could you ask for?
Conor Luke Barry – Wild Wild West
‘Good’ is such a relative term. For example, the sentence ‘Wild Wild West is a good film’ is misleading. If you’re talking in terms of the actual qualities that make up a good film, such as actually caring about what’s going on, then sure, it’s objectively woeful. But if you’re looking at it as a baffling, once-off, ridiculously expensive misfire that could only have existed in the nineties, then Wild Wild West is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Taking place in a version of the West that is slightly wilder than the Wild West, the film stars Smith as the gun-slinging Jim West who teams up with Kevin Kline, a disguise-wearing amateur inventor. Together they team up to take down a moustachioed super villain, bizarrely played by Kenneth Branagh, who tries to take over America with a giant, steampunk spider that can crush everything with it’s destructive spider legs. Salma Hayek also shows up from time to time.
It’s as entertaining a mess as that sounds. It wasn’t like they were cashing in on some ongoing Western trend that all the kids were talking about. The studios were like ‘We know you think you don’t like Westerns, but we’re willing to bet $170 million dollars that we can change your mind’. Which, of course, they didn’t. In the history of civilisation, never has so much money been spent with so little to show for it. And when the most memorable part of your entire project is the pop song based on the film, that’s when you know you’ve made some poor business decisions.
Allegedly Quentin Tarantino offered Will Smith the titular role in his cowboy epic Django Unchained, many speculating that Smith took issue with the difficult depiction of race. That may be the case, but I’m willing to wager that Smith was eager to distance himself from the entire Western genre, lest he get Nam flashbacks of the worst decision of his entire career. Well, apart from Shark Tale.