Will Smith plays Royal King Douche of All Douchebags in director M. Night Shyamalan's latest travesty, the unwatchable, intolerable, totally stink-able After Earth.
Conceived by Smith (he gets a story credit) as a project for himself and his son Jaden (they were cute together in The Pursuit of Happyness), the Smiths are cast as a father and son stranded on Earth long after humans have abandoned it. It seems the place has become uninhabitable for humans, who can no longer breathe on the planet's surface, yet all manner of wildlife (buffalo, huge-assed birds, baboons, lions, etc.) have no problem sucking wind on the globe.
They wind up on the planet after their transport ship drives through an asteroid field, killing all but the two of them. After the harrowing crash (the best thing in the movie), Will Smith's stiff, unloving dad Cypher Raige (This year's pick for dumbest movie name!) is severely injured and must stay behind in the crippled ship as son Kitai Raige (Hey ... wait ... no ... that's this year's dumbest movie name!) must venture onto Evil Earth to retrieve a rescue beacon from the ship's tail section many kilometers away.
Actually, there was another survivor. The ship was also carrying an alien monster that can't see you unless you are afraid of him and shooting off stinky pheromones. Being able to shut off all fear and avoid such monsters is Cypher's calling card. He's not afraid of anything, so he's not going to get eaten. The kid, on the other hand, is scared shitless and prime bait for such a creature.
I mentioned in the opening paragraph that Smith is a major douche in this movie, and that's an understatement. He's one of those badass General dads who has a problem expressing emotion and barks orders at his kid during suppertime. He's not going to take the kid out into the backyard for a catch. He's going to be unloving, unkind and unholy freaking dull.
Will Smith has made past movies fun due to his charisma and the fact that he is generally awake when the director yells "Action!" In this film, he's barely got a pulse. And to make matters worse, his character just sits around with a broken leg, basically guiding his son's performance via a futuristic Skype-like communication.
Proving that anything is possible, Jaden's performance is actually worse than his dad's. Both speak with ridiculous accents that I'm thinking are supposed to be a mixture of many past Earth accents (a little British, crossed with Rastafarian and a touch of German). While Will sounds silly, Jaden sounds totally ridiculous.
I'm picturing the following conversation between M. Night Shamma-lamma-ding-dong and Jaden Smith on the set:
M. NIGHT: "Hey, Jaden ... your dad is really dragging ass in this movie. I need some emotional juice out of you to balance things out. So, I need you to cry and scream and whine and stuff like that. Also, please pretend that the thing chasing you is a real lion and not just crappy CGI. Understand?"
JADEN: "Screw you, M. Night ... Will Smith is my dad and I can do whatever I want! And The Village sucked!"
M. NIGHT: "Why you little bastard! I made The Sixth Sense ... and Signs!"
JADEN: "Yeah ... you also made The Happening and The Last Airbender, bitch!"
WILL SMITH: "Son, do what the director told you, and stop bringing up the bad movies. It makes the dude withdraw and shit, and then we won't get any work done."
JADEN: "Dad ... shut your mouth, too. Your performance is leaden, and you are making my inexperienced ass carry this whole damned thing! I want to go home and do karate!"
WILL SMITH: "Yeah ... whatever. I'm going to make another Hancock or Bad Boys after this bombs. You go ahead and start that big music career of yours. Ha ha."
JADEN: "I hate you!"
WILL SMITH: "I hate you, too. Ha ha."
M. NIGHT (Crying and hugging himself in the corner): "I made The Sixth Sense ..."
Trust me, the fictional exchange above is more compelling than anything that happens in After Earth. Jaden was a true charmer in The Pursuit of Happyness, and I even dug him in The Karate Kid. I'll go ahead and blame his dad and M. Night for most of what goes wrong in this movie. I reckon somebody could've told the kid to tone it down. Ice cream works.
As for M. Night, this continues an unholy string of bad movies that should get his ass shut down for good in Hollywood. His last good movie was Signs ... 12 years ago. Since then, he's made five films ... all wretched.
Looks like his next project is something called Wayward Pines, and it's for TV. Incidentally, Wayward Pines (starring Matt Dillon and Melissa Leo) has a story summary that looks a lot like Twin Peaks. While that might sound a little cool and promising, I'm sure M. Night will screw it up, M. NIGHT STYLE!
Here's something funny: As bad as After Earth is, it's actually Shyamalan's best film since Signs. That shows you the miserable state of affairs for all things M. Night.
Will Smith allegedly wanted After Earth to be the first movie in a franchise. Further films probably won't happen unless he writes the checks himself and stays the hell away from Shyamalan.