FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: “King Richard” stars Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness, I Robot), Aunjanue Ellis (Men of Honor, Ray), Saniyya Sidney (Fences, Hidden Figures), Demi Singleton (Godfather of Harlem [TV series], Goldie), Tony Goldwyn (The Last Samurai, Divergent), Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew (Red Riding Hoods [TV series], Dear Mama [Short]), Daniele Lawson (Good Trouble [TV series], Young Sheldon [TV series]), Layla Crawford (The First Family [TV series], NCIS: Los Angeles [TV series]), Erika Ringor (Love & Basketball, The Morning Show [TV series]), and Jon Bernthal (Baby Driver, Fury). It is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men, Joe Bell) and written by Zach Baylin (Skull [Short], Creed III).
Based on a true story, this film follows Richard Williams (Smith) as he shepherds his talented daughters Venus (Sidney) and Serena (Demi) Williams to become the next tennis stars, and get them out of the slums.
It was only a matter of time before Will Smith returned to Oscar contention, and now he’s gifted us with “Pursuit of Happyness 2” (otherwise known as “King Richard”).
The origin story of tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams would be remiss without their persistant father, Richard Williams. Growing up, he filled their minds with motivation and determination to be the best, always championing them wherever he went (which was typically the tennis clubs in hopes to get a coach). He reminds me of my own parents, who have always supported my dreams and have recently been teaching on mental perception (specifically on how vital it is to feed your mind with motivational, uplifting thoughts). Of course, there is struggle, which is derived from not only growing up in the lower class with no money to afford a proper coach, but also the hard-headed nature of Richard Williams that ultimately provides a roadblock toward his daughters’ success.
Will Smith comes to play. I never second-guess this man, not for a second. Even in his mediocre releases, the actor entertains. He’s charming, humorous, and natural. His role of Richard Williams is a powerful one; he isn’t perfect, with plenty of faults to dissect as the narrative unfolds. The character itself is an interesting one, as he sports a set of booty shorts and high socks, spitting motivation to his daughters wherever he goes. It’s when they start to gain traction that things get really intriguing, and Williams’ approach to everything kept me engaged. There’s no surprise that Smith is up for the Academy Award for this one.
Branching to the rest of this cast, everyone is top-notch. Mainly because they feel like real people (which works exceptionally well for biographical pictures). Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as Venus and Serena are eclectic. They aren’t over-the-top, nor annoying; they are simply kids, and they made me believe they could play tennis (a huge plus). The story focuses primarily on Sidney’s Venus, since she was the oldest of the two and entered the junior tournament first. Sidney’s range of emotion carried her performance, and her chemistry with Will Smith made for a great father-daughter dynamic. Filling out the rest of the ensemble, the Williams family as a whole are fun. Aunjanue Ellis plays the mother role well, and even though the rest of the kiddos weren’t as important, they still kept things poppin. My favorite performer of this whole feature, however, has to be Jon Bernthal, who played Rick Macci. Man dude. I have seen Bernthal assume the tough guy roles plenty of times, but in this he’s a frazzled Canadian, and it’s simply amazing. I laughed quite a bit and loved every moment he was on screen. Sure, I may be a fan of his in general, but let me tell you: the guy branched out of his type, and did phenomenally.
There’s quite a few elements of “King Richard” that check off the Oscar boxes. Chief of which being the solid structure of this true story, and the fact that it speaks on a family of hardship trying to break in to the big leagues. Usually, I find the story device of racism/minority disadvantage to be uninteresting (given how there is so much of it in cinema out there now), but what Zach Baylin does with his script is place it on the shoulders of a father who wants what’s best for his kids. The flawed character of Richard Williams drives this story home, and when you mix the fantastic performance given by Will Smith, you’ve got a great experience. Really, “King Richard” is one of those movies you live in and take a walk. You go on this journey with this family, and discover that while you can support your loved ones, you can’t be the keeper of their lives/decisions. The lesson is solid, as is the execution.
If you are interested in the story of Venus and Serena Williams, you will enjoy this. And if you aren’t? Well, it’s still a good film. At the end of the day, this story is about a father and husband who has to work on himself. There’s plenty of well-executed aspects of this film to make it a worthwhile experience, and while it isn’t perfect, I very much recommend it. FINAL SCORE: 90%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: