Published on December 20, 2007
I Am Legend
Cast: Will Smith, Alice Braga
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Running time: One hour, 50 minutes
Hanuman rating: HH
Lacking the cerebral skills of Denzel Washington, the complexities of Forest Whitaker and the comic timing of Martin Lawrence, Smith was doomed to forever play flaky roles like "Hutch" and "Bad Boys".
"I Am Legend" was a calculated risk he took to break this losing streak. But the attempt has backfired, and backfired terribly. Now we really know he can't act.
To make things worse, Smith makes the mistake of hiring Francis Lawrence as director. Lawrence, who is more at home making music videos for Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, is one of the very last persons you would want for this remake of "Omega Man".
Moviegoers who are familiar with the Charlton Heston sci-fi movie made in 1971, based on the Richard Matheson book, will reel when they see what a mess Smith and Lawrence have made in this version.
A film about the last (healthy) man on Earth should not be so boring, but somehow "Legend" can't keep you from yawning.
The script has been carefully tailored to suit Smith, to make him look intelligent and sensitive. But sharper eyes will detect that this is just a set-up to make him look less goofy.
The give-away moment is when Smith tells Alice Braga why he likes Bob Marley so much. He talks about everything except the most important part of Marley's music, his Rastafarian roots from which his hope for human salvation sprang.
The reason why Marley fans worship him even three decades after his death has more to do with his lessons on how governments lie and often use brute force to subjugate people.
But this is a Will Smith picture, and heavy messages are avoided.
In keeping everything Disney-ish, its bid to elevate Smith as a serious player falls on its face. The cringe factor is so high that you might need a stiff drink to simmer down after watching it.
Smith can now do two things to save his career: fire his agent, and find another film where he can play a cute hero, like "Independence Day", that won't offend anyone.
These days, great vehicles like "Ali" are tough to come by, so his best bet is to do another sequel to "Men In Black", or call it a day.