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SMITH, WILL
(Willard Smith, Jr. 1968–  ). American actor and musician.

IMDB credits In my personal world-view, Will Smith is a man who made a lot of science fiction movies that I didn't like. But most people liked them, so he kept making them, and as a result he has done more than enough to earn a place in the encyclopedia, and my belated attention to his career.

When he first became prominent in the 1990s, Smith seemed like the perfect Hollywood leading man: he was hip, handsome, funny, tough enough to handle action roles, and sensitive enough to dabble in chick flicks. But he has not aged well: no longer interested in being amusing, he has preferred to foreground his obsessive earnestness and fondness for children, and far from being hip, he can now come across as conservative and crotchety. Thus, like other stars soon to qualify for Social Security who aren't packing them in like they used to, like Tom CRUISE and Johnny DEPP, he now seems destined to a career of alternating unsuccessful novelties with repeated returns to tried-and-true franchises.

Smith initially attracted attention as a rap artist, but the intelligent Smith surely knew that the shelf life of rappers tends to be short, so he quickly shifted to starring in a television series, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-1996), which then became his springboard to film stardom. After impressing Hollywood in the comedy action film Bad Boys (1995), his first major triumph came in Roland EMMERICH's inane (and inexplicably popular) Independence Day (1996), which was promptly followed by what remains his best film, Men in Black (1997).  Therein, Smith's appealing persona intersected with an unusually imaginative story line, and while its sequels Men in Black II (2002) and Men in Black 3 (2012) were not as engaging, these films remain the most watchable of Smith's productions.

Nevertheless, the clumsy The Wild, Wild West (1998) demonstrated that Smith was not infallible, and while many have professed their fondness for the sentimental The Legend of Bagger Vance (2001), it never attracted enough filmgoers to pay for its production costs (perhaps there are a lot of people, like me, who simply despise the game of golf and hence had no desire to see the film).

Brushing off these setbacks, Smith proceeded to implement his master plan for achieving screen immortality: to sometimes star in mindless, crowd-pleasing action films, like I, Robot (2004) and I Am Legend (2006), and to sometimes opt for serious Oscar bait like Ali (2001) and The Pursuit of Happyness (2006). And it all worked out pretty well for a while. But his inept effort to bring something new to the genre of superhero films, Hancock (2007), was widely derided, and utter disaster struck when his burgeoning gravitas collided with the pontifical N. Night SHYAMALAN to produce the irksome morality tale After Earth (2013).  None of his films after that, though they may have earned more money, really seemed to be connecting with audiences any more.

Still, Smith sought to adapt to the times by making a second attempt to master the art of superhero films as Deadshot, one member of the villainous Suicide Squad (2016), and he is undoubtedly engaged in negotiations to bring the character back in a second Suicide Squad movie and/or a Deadshot movie. He is also hard at work trying to get a sequel to I, Robot off the ground, and with a fourth Bad Boys film in the works, a fourth Men in Black movie is sure to follow. What's next? Well, since films based on television programs always seem like a sure bet, it would only seem fitting to suggest The Stale Prince of Bel Air as his next project, with Smith taking over the role of the grouchy old man who can't relate to the cool youngster who has invaded his life. That, at least, would get him away from science fiction films, so I would no longer have to pay attention to him.

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