Thanks, Dad! Will Smith's vanity project for son Jaden "After Earth" scores 13 percent "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes
This could make for some awkward dinner-table conversation at Chez Smith.
Critics are excoriating "After Earth," the Will Smith science-fiction adventure that appears to have been made for the sole purpose of convincing the world that son Jaden Smith is dad's A-list equivalent.
Not all the reviews are in, so the consensus could tilt in a more favorable direction, but as of Thursday morning, "After Earth" had scored a doleful 13 percent "rotten" rating on the critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
The film opens on Friday and is directed by M. Night Shyamalan, "The Sixth Sense" auteur whose once-promising career was derailed with critical flops like "Lady in the Water." It finds father and son as a pair of futuristic space travelers who crash land on an abandoned Earth.
In TheWrap, Alonso Duralde quipped that "After Earth" plays like one of the world's most expensive bar mitzvahs, though he implied the celebration is one that will be better enjoyed by family members than guests. He noted that other celebrity off-spring like Sofia Coppola in "The Godfather III" have famously stumbled when teamed with their parents only to re-emerge from the experience the stronger for it, so there may be hope for Jaden.
"'After Earth' tells the story of an inexperienced boy trying desperately to please his father while making one mistake after another, and as such, it becomes an uncomfortable metaphor for itself," Duralde wrote.
Though Duralde wrote that he felt embarrassed for Smith's son, that empathy didn't prevent him from firing off a brutal capper to his review.
"You know you're in trouble when you find yourself feeling sorry for one of the world’s wealthiest teenagers," Duralde wrote. "And you’re definitely in trouble when you wish the mess of a movie he stars in could be as entertainingly rotten as 'Battlefield Earth.'"
"After Earth" didn't fare much better with Duralde's critical brethren. '
The New York Post's Lou Lumenick said the on-screen adventure is so soporific it should come with a "drowsiness" warning. In a one-star evisceration, Lumenick took a shiv to everything from the Smith's choice of Southern accents to its delusions of franchise-dom. Shyamalan's lackluster direction also did not escape his incisive assessment.
"Eleven years and several progressively more dreadful movies after 'Signs,' director M. Night Shyamalan would be lucky to get a gig directing traffic," Lumenick wrote. "His work on this reported $150 million vanity project manages to generate no suspense or excitement. Only yawns."
Scott Foundas of Variety predicted that "After Earth" will have a rough time drawing a crowd despite Smith's box-office power. In the acting contest between father and son, Foundas found himself siding with the younger member of the Smith clan.
"Donning an impermeable tough-guy facade, and hovering on the edge of consciousness for much of the running time, the senior Smith gives one of the least substantive performances of his career, while the undeniably charismatic Jaden toggles between two primary modes of expression: paralyzing fear and simmering rage," Foundas wrote.
That lukewarm appraisal was a veritable rave when stacked against the Fort Worth Star-Telegram critic Cary Darling's review. He wrote that any ambitions to turn Jaden Smith into a box-office king just hit a pothole.
"Sorry, Dad," Darling wrote. "Looks like you’re going to have to keep working for a while. And if you want to give Jaden something special next year, why not just settle for a nice party?"
That's not to say everyone hated on "After Earth." Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune wasn't abusing the superlatives, but he argued that the film was competently executed.
"'After Earth' won't change your world, but it's attractive ('Airbender' looked like pure crud) and Smith the Elder, lowering his voice to subterranean James Earl Jones levels, delivers a shrewd minimalist performance," Phillips wrote. "His son may get there yet."