WHITTLE THEATRE SHOWCASE: Will Smith stands atop the competition as King Richard shines

King Richard plays at the Al Whittle Theatre in Wolfville, N.S. on Sunday, January 30, 2022. Support local, and go see it on the big screen.

It’s hard to believe, but Will Smith has never been better than he is in King Richard.

As the hard-knocks, intense father of real-life tennis superstars Venus & Serena Williams, Smith disappears into the role. For the first time since The Pursuit Of Happyness, I entirely forgot I was watching the megastar.

Smith has seen his fair share of flops, but he returns right back to the top with this invigorating, fantastic portrayal.

He coaches his girls on the hard streets of Compton while maintaining large ambitions for all his daughters. He prays and pushes day and night that his kids do better than he did.

Perhaps what makes King Richard most interesting is paradoxically where it falters. We are given a protagonist here who isn’t all sunshine. Richard Williams pushes his kids hard, and Will Smith is unafraid of his character not being beloved.

But the screenplay from Zach Baylin is never quite ready to take our biopic’s main character and make him too complicated. King Richard is endearing in the way it presents us to these two young legends, but it doesn’t push the envelope either.

That said, director Reinaldo Marcus Green creates a thoroughly entertaining and heartwarming film, even if it doesn’t take many risks.

Smith will win an Oscar this year, if the dastardly Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t foil his plans. Also of note is Aunjanue Ellis, a two-time Emmy nominee who gets a fantastic supporting role as the calmer of the two Williams parents. Unafraid to speak her mind, she’s a foil to Smith’s character, who sometimes puts ambition above all else.

This is equal parts biopic and sports story, and both of these genres are given the passion due.

Come for the tearjerker moments, but after a decade of difficult roles and bad breaks, Will Smith has taken back his A-lister crown with King Richard.

4.5 Stars

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