Acting-wise, it’s all been downhill for Will Smith since 1996. For, in 1996, his greatest acting achievement to date came to a close—1996 marked the fateful end of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Will’s character on the show was enjoyable, affable, and entertaining—three things Smith would prove to never be in a role again.
At least not all at once.
Oh sure, Captain James West was kind of funny, and Agent Jay was endearing in his own way, but did any of them proclaim their love to a girl in a grocery store while donning a fat suit? I don’t think so. And frankly, no character Will Smith plays ever will. Let’s face it—he peaked with the Fresh Prince.
After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air‘s end, Will Smith’s first role of notoriety was, what? Captain Hiller in Independence Day? It didn’t work. I guess he managed to maintain some of his freshness, but he just didn’t exude the loveable, carefree vibe that he did on The Fresh Prince. There were no sophomoric hijinks. No cheesy rapping. There was no fat Uncle Phil to belittle. Where was the Will Smith we had grown to know and love?
I was only twelve when Independence Day came out, but even then, I could feel the slow death of Will Smith’s charisma—a charisma I had found so enthralling when I watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
But still, I hoped.
Soon after, Men in Black was released. Will Smith reprised his role, somewhat, as the young buck smart ass. But it just wasn’t the same. Maybe it was DJ Jazzy Jeff’s absence, the lack of brightly colored clothing—I don’t know. But this was not exactly the Will Smith I had grown to love. My heart began to break, and by the time Ali came out, I had given up completely.
Don’t even get me started on Hitch, Hancock or The Pursuit of Happyness.
Try as he may, Will Smith will likely never return to the glory days of The Fresh Prince. Half of it is the fact that it was just a great character. He was like a more attractive, cooler version of Dennis the Menace. He was quick-witted, street smart, and he took a goddamn cab from Philly to LA, for crying out loud! (Unless it was the extended opening credits, then he flew for some of it.)
The other half is, every other role he’s taken on has kind of sucked anyway.
Oh, and did you know he’s a Scientologist to boot? This guy, a fucking Scientologist!
Come on, man!!!
Not too long ago, Will appeared on The Graham Norton Show, where he rapped a bit of The Fresh Prince theme song. It was nice. It was like looking at a forgotten photograph from a long ago relationship.
“Every country in the world, that is the thing I am most known for,” Will admitted to Graham Norton. “Long as they screaming ‘Will,’ I’m cool.”
We will scream, Will. We will scream. Not for John Hancock, Bagger Vance, or Alex “Hitch” Hitchens (seriously?) But for Will. Will Smith. Born and raised in West Philadelphia, forever sitting on his throne…as the Prince of Bel-Air.