“After Earth,” Will Smith & Shark Jumping!

Has Will Smith finally “jumped the shark?” Fans of the 1970’s sitcom, “Happy Days,” will remember the eponymous episode for which this cultural term is derived.

Jumping the shark is an idiom created by Jon Hein that was used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery, which is usually a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of “gimmick” in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.

In its initial usage, it referred to the point in a television program‘s history when the program had outlived its freshness and viewers had begun to feel that the show’s writers were out of new ideas, often after great effort was made to revive interest in the show by the writers, producers, or network.[1][2][3]

The usage of “jump the shark” has subsequently broadened beyond television, indicating the moment when a brand, design, or creative effort’s evolution loses the essential qualities that initially defined its success and declines, ultimately, into irrelevance. (article here)

Although I was already growing weary of Will Smith and his entire family, I was nevertheless entertained by most of Smith’s films. I was even pleasantly surprised by Jaden Smith’s impersonation of “The Karate Kid,” a film I remember with fondness from the 1984 original starring Ralph Macchio and none other than “Happy Days” own Pat Morita. The remake wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it is not a film — unlike the original — that I would waste my time or money watching again.

Which brings us to the Smiths’ current movie, “After Earth”  When I first saw the trailers on television last month, my first reaction was, “NO! Absolutely not.  There is no way that I would pay money to see this movie.” Not only did the plot look stupid, but I am not paying to see a movie with Jaden Smith ever again.  Although I did not realize that “After Earth” was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, that’s another reason to skip this movie. When is the last time that M. Night Shyamalan directed a good movie?  Apart from 1999’s “The Sixth Sense” and perhaps 2002’s “Signs,” most of his movies have been forgettable.  I fully expect that “After Earth” will join “Lady in the Water” and “The Happening” among Shyamalan’s growing list of box office duds.

Despite “Sony’s hopes that ‘After Earth’ will attract audiences with its father-son bonding story,” most families will stay away from this movie. If early returns are any indication, “After Earth” will under-perform, becoming one of Will Smith’s “lowest openings in recent times for a summer film starring the actor.” What could explain Smith’s potential box office “failure” (at least by industry standards)? Why would parents — particularly dads who have sons like me — not want to pay hard-earned money to watch Will and Jaden Smith on the big screen?

There maybe a plethora of reasons that will keep many folks from choosing to see “After Earth.” I can only speak for myself, but my desire to see any Will Smith movie has been tempered by the actor’s own personal life. While I don’t always base my decision to watch a particular movie on the actors and actresses in the movie, that is certainly one consideration which determines whether or not I financially support someone by paying to see their movie. In the case of the Smiths, I am not at all thrilled to support or condone — in any form, shape or fashion —  their Hollywood family lifestyle.

From Will Smith’s public support of the cult of Scientology to his unconventional parenting style, the more that I learn about Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and their family, the less likely I am to watch their movies. Of course, that goes for any actor or actress who wants me to part with my money to view their film. Perhaps that’s why I watch fewer movies at the local cineplex. Well, that and time and money.

Will Smith is free to believe whatever he wants to. However, neither he nor any other Hollywood star can expect that audiences will disregard those stars’ own personal lives or beliefs when deciding how to spend $50-75 (depending on family size and location of the country) for “entertainment.” There was a day when I would watch any movie that starred Harrison Ford, but, that was a long time ago. If Harrison Ford can jump the shark, Will Smith can. Maybe I’ll check out “Now You See Me.” It looks entertaining.


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