Movie Jail: This week’s defendant is…Will Smith!

Movie Jail

This is Movie Jail, a unique maximum security prison that houses some of the worst writers, directors, actors and producers from Hollywood and beyond. Their crimes? The offenses vary from convict to convict but most of these inmates have contributed negatively to the film world to some capacity and his or her misdeeds have covered a long enough period of time that the authorities had to intervene. In each column a defendant is put on trial, arguments are made, and then it is up to YOU, the jury, to decide if the person is guilty or not guilty of crimes against cinema. Their lives are in your hands, dude.

The Defendant

Will Smith 1

The Case

The Prosecution: Wild Wild West, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Men in Black 2 & 3, I, Robot, Hitch, The Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds, After Earth

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, today's defendant's image has taken a hit recently with talks of nepotism and scientology references swirling around his latest movie (besides being torn apart by critics) but we don't need to use those things in our prosecution against Willard Christopher "Will" Smith, Jr. We understand the risk of bringing such a high profile actor to court but we are only concerned with his film roles and his recent career trajectory. The big question the prosecution wants answered is, "Where did the Fresh Prince go?"

Even though he was a well known name because of his hit television show and Bad Boys, Mr. Smith's career really exploded with 1996's Independence Day and has starred in numerous blockbuster films since. His charisma and screen presence has been applauded by critics and fans for years. But what has Mr. Smith done with those talents? The prosecution isn't saying Mr. Smith's talents are wasted in big budget films but shouldn't he be doing something more besides tent-pole films? Yes he had dramatic turns in The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds but would you consider any of his roles in those films as great ones for an actor to really showcase his talents? Talents that Mr. Smith clearly has? The prosecution feels that these roles do not challenge Mr. Smith at all.

Mr. Smith picks very safe roles. Boringly safe roles. He's been called "the white Tom Cruise" more than once but that's not fair…to Mr. Cruise. At least Tom Cruise has had some meatier roles (Interview with a Vampire, Tropic Thunder) and has played darker characters (Magnolia, Collateral) compared to the films Mr. Smith has appeared in. Mr. Smith showed a lot of passion while making Ali and even though it wasn't a box office smash it did earn him an Oscar Nomination. Where did his drive go for making powerful, critically acclaimed and/or (not to sound pretentious) important films and not just money making monsters?

A perfect example is the defendant apparently turning down the lead in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. The prosecution isn't here to argue if Mr. Smith would have been a better or worse choice than Jamie Foxx to play Django but we feel that it was a huge mistake by the actor. He declined a role that would have lead to him (probably) being showered with accolades by critics, made him slightly cooler amongst online film nerds (it is a Tarantino movie after all) and since Django Unchained isn't a typical Will Smith flick (lots of graphic violence, controversial subject matter) it would have given the actor a slight "edge" that the prosecution feels he desperately needs.

Instead Mr. Smith has After Earth, which was directed by M. Night Shyamalan (about as opposite of Tarantino as you can get), will probably lose a lot of money and has been carved to bits by pretty much everyone. Speaking of directors, why hasn't Mr. Smith worked with better quality directors? Wouldn't you love to see him team up with Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese or the Coen Brothers? And Mr. Smith seems to enjoy sci-fi films so why not work with someone like Neil Blomkamp or on the upcoming Interstellar with Christopher Nolan?

The prosecution strongly urges the jury to declare Mr. Smith guilty. Hopefully his time in Movie Jail will be a wake up call of sorts and the actor will start to pick some more noteworthy roles that are a proper use of his talents.

Will Smith 2

The Defense: Bad Boys 1 & 2, Independence Day, Men in Black, Enemy of the State, Ali, I, Robot, The Pursuit of Happyness, I Am Legend, Hancock

Ladies and gentlemen, the prosecution makes some very good points. Some the defense may even agree with. But you can not deny how my client has completely carried entire films time and time again. You may notice that some of the same films are on the prosecution's list and mine. That is because while these movies may have not been excellent the thing that made them better or at least salvageable was Mr. Smith. The defense isn't saying Mr. Smith is the only actor that would have made these films work but most of these movies' success (both critically and financially) are primarily due to Mr. Smith.

Look at I Am Legend, which is nowhere near a perfect film but Mr. Smith's performance makes it worth a watch and the way he carries a film is certainly evident in the early parts of the film due to Mr. Smith being the only actor on the screen. But because it's a film with a high budget involving CGI creatures and not Mr. Smith stuck with his arm under a rock like James Franco in 127 Hours, this makes his performance not worthy of acclaim?

The prosecution also argues that Mr. Smith takes "safe" roles. There is nothing wrong with an actor wanting to protect his image and Mr. Smith is such a bankable star he's probably wanted to be extra careful about such things. Even so he's managed to be in the overly violent/racist/sexist/awesome Bad Boys films and while Seven Pounds isn't great Mr. Smith is and it's one of the actor's more somber roles to date. One of those safe roles was also The Pursuit of Happyness, which is a little too sugary sweet for a drama yet Mr. Smith keeps it grounded and prevents the film from feeling like a Lifetime movie.

Now about After Earth, apparently the catalyst for bringing my client to court. Let's make it clear: After Earth is not a good movie and although it will make plenty of money in foreign markets it will certainly under perform domestically. But this is one of the very few full on misfires in Mr. Smith's career and that in itself is very impressive especially for how long of a duration Mr. Smith was considered the King of Summer Blockbusters.

One of his other big bombs was Wild Wild West which was also defecated on by critics yet it ultimately made back it's budget worldwide. The defense's point? Wild Wild West was considered one of the worst movies of the year and I'm sure After Earth will be on similar lists this year. But a lot of people still went to see these films regardless of how bad they are and most of that is solely because of Mr. Smith. That is power my friend and Mr. Smith still has loads of it.

The defense also wishes to point out that Mr. Smith has only released three films since 2008's Hancock (a film that is better than most people give it credit for) so while it may appear that the actor's career has been a little rocky lately there hasn't been that many movies to actually judge him on. The defense feels that Mr. Smith will rebound nicely with his supporting role in the upcoming movie Winter's Tale with Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe, which should lead to some new exciting roles for the actor.

Will Smith 3


So is it time for "Big Willie" to go to the big house? Should he "Switch" from "Miami" to Maximum Security? Is this just a case of "Parents Just Don't Understand" or…fine I'll stop with the jokes. Just tell me: is Will Smith GUILTY or NOT GUILTY?


*The cases for and against a defendant going to Movie Jail by the author are not necessarily his views and opinions but they are some of the beliefs that one would use to effectively make an argument for both sides. Not quite a devil's advocate but you get the point. Anyways, this is all in fun so don't take it too seriously. We have a separate jail for those people called "Troll Tower" and believe me you do NOT want to go there.


Will Smith 3


Kate Hudson prison

In a landslide vote against the actress, the jury found Kate Hudson absolutely guilty of all charges. The jury pointed out that while her turn as Penny Lane in Almost Famous was excellent she's done almost nothing to live up to the potential she showed in the Cameron Crowe film, which is almost a bigger crime. Instead Miss Hudson has appeared in movies that often end up nominated for Razzies and she is usually "rewarded" with a nomination for her performance as well. Miss Hudson has been escorted to Movie Jail, where she will remain until further notice. A restraining order has also been put in place that demands Miss Hudson stay at least a hundred yards away from Matthew McConaughey at all times, which will hopefully prevent them from ever making another film together.


GUILTY Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Vince Vaughn, Tim Burton, The Farrelly Brothers, Michael Bay, Jessica Alba, Ice Cube, Gerard Butler, Halle Berry, Marlon Wayans, Julia Roberts, M. Night Shyamalan , Katherine Heigl , Cuba Gooding, Jr. , Tyler Perry, Cameron Diaz, Kate Hudson

NOT GUILTY Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Nic Cage, John Travolta, Oliver Stone, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey, Wes Craven, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Rodriguez, Kristen Stewart, Roland Emmerich, Kevin Costner, Sandra Bullock, Hilary Swank, Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves, Kevin Smith, Channing Tatum, Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Anna Faris, Robin Williams, Charlize Theron, Ray Liotta, Jason Statham, Paul Walker


About the Author