For some of us, children are something you pay for. For Fresh Prince, children are something that gets you paid. That’s why he told Jaden, “Whatcha mean you wanna spend summer playin’ Xbax? Ya need to be out there hustlin’ makin’ cheddar fo’ yo moms and me. Getcher butt outta bed and get actin’ in dem movies, boy!”
After Earth is their new film, coming soon. Starring, of course, as you should have surmised from that intro, Will Smith and his son Jaden. It is a sci-fi drama which the trailer tells us will be tense and full of brooding looks from Prince. There will be epic CGI panoramas and a quasi-philosophical twist like the Matrix is hinted at. I am definitely going to watch it. That doesn’t mean I think it’s going to be good, but I will watch it. FOMO for the CGI is what’s taking me there however—it is more the CGI than anything I expect from the Smiths.
It has been a while since Prince was the main draw for a summer sci-fi blockbuster. I Am Legend and Hancock were big, but cast your mind back a decade, if you will to 1996. Then 1997, 1998, 1999 . Fresh Prince was awesome then. His charisma, comic timing and just his casual effortless coolness on screen made him one of the most appealing things about summer movies then. Bad Boys was just a dude getting started. Then Independence Day and Men in Black came along and we didn’t argue when he proclaimed himself the King of Fourth of July. The biggest day in US movie calendar was a day for a Fresh Prince movie.
Rapper slash actor? Dude forget rap. He got his SAG card, baby.
But then the reign didn’t last long. Especially after 2000 and Wild Wild West turned out to be a tiresome waste of electricity and a shame on all eyes that saw it. The movie sucked so bad that Prince pretty much stopped making blockbusters after that.
I’m sorry. I am old school. I call him Fresh Prince.
Not that it was a bad thing. He was a phenomenal actor so he could decide to chill being the wisecracking black dude in blockbusters for a while (He was the wisecracking black dude in all his previous hits, even Bad Boys). Now unless it was a sequel he was contractually obliged to do, he stopped acting as Fresh Prince in sci-fi settings and became a serious thespian, making Oscar bait.
But we also want money in the house and Jada isn’t bringing in that much. Well, there is the cheque from her voice work on Madagascar, but it kind of looks like Jada just isn’t into movies any more. And so here is where you cast a wicked glance at the kids on the sofa playing Xbox and see them change into dollar signs.
This is how much the Smiths are making Jaden’s career an investment: Little man has been in four major movies in his short career, two of which, Karate Kid, Pursuit of Happyness and now After Earth, have been produced by his dad. His recurring role in All of Us, Duane Martin’s sitcom, is also courtesy of the parental units. They produced the show.
Jaden Smith? More like Jaden $mith, amiright?
This is not a terrible thing of course. I mean, the kids is not entirely untalented. He is entertaining. Let him make his money and make his parents/bosses some more money. No hateration.
It’s just that, well…
Will Smith was a phenomenon. He was one of the greatest entertainers in the league back in his fourth of July days. Okay, so he went all “mature” and “serious” on us, and I won’t knock his hustle (unless it is the rap hustle in which case, Big Willie Style was lame watered-down pablum for white pre-teen girls.)
But I hated Karate Kid. Not so much because the movie was almost entirely about a small boy getting beaten up all day long with revenge scene that offered no satisfaction at all, but because Jaden just was not cool at all. He was just there. Like bread without blue band which you are going to eat with water. Even Jackie Chan was dragged down into the vortex of blandness that Jaden created in that movie. Is it unfair to compare him to his dad? I don’t think so, not when it is his dad who has brought him to us.
Now After Earth. The trailer suggests that Will is going to be doing his serious acting thing, like I Am Legend and I Robot, not his funny, cool thing, like Hitch and MIB.
And Jaden is also just there being flat and flavourless running around this CGI environment with dinosaurs and what I think could be Toruk Makto from Avatar.
Jaden is not going to be the second coming of The Fresh Prince. After Earth is going to be a screensaver—that is my prediction. If I’m wrong I will come back and say sorry.
This piece appeared in Kampala Sun a couple of weeks ago. They let me repost it here after After Earth made headlines by being an enormous flop. This is basically me saying I told you so.