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Review: 'King Richard' is a good movie with a great performance from Will Smith

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Will Smith in a scene from "King Richard."

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Will Smith in a scene from "King Richard." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

CENTER COURT — We are heading into what is known as awards season — that time of year when studios start pumping out what they think will be their Academy Awards fodder.

During the summer we see big action movies with massive explosions, but in November and December we get the tearjerkers and acting ensembles. Warner Bros. is hoping to garner a few Oscar nominations with this week's release, "King Richard."

The film stars Will Smith as Richard Williams, the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams. The movie chronicles Richard's hardworking and often eccentric personality as he personally trained his daughters to become what some consider the greatest players to ever step foot onto a tennis court.

"King Richard" has some really fantastic moments, some that leave you wanting and some that will get you cheering. Here are some reasons I really enjoyed "King Richard" and one or two things I think it was missing:

The aces

Will Smith and the rest of the cast are excellent

The star of the film is without a doubt Will Smith. The movie has some other solid performances, but this is Smith's movie. He's in nearly every single scene and it is a showcase for the actor to show off how far he's come since his "Fresh Prince" days that seem so long ago.

I believe Smith will get an Academy Award nomination and I would say it's deserved. In a film like this it's easy for an actor to fall into the "trying too hard" category, but I felt Smith toed the line quite well. I believed his performance as a father who not only wanted the best out of his daughters, but also wanted to protect them. When the film started I was worried Smith went a little too heavy as you get the first exposure to his southern accent and short shorts, but it did not feel over-the-top or forced. Instead, it felt genuine and tangible as a parent.

If Smith does get a nomination, and especially if he wins, he needs to give some thank-yous to his supporting cast. Aunjanue Ellis helps sell Smith's performance with her chemistry and commitment as Richard's wife and the mother to Serena, Venus and three other girls. Tony Goldwyn and Jon Bernthal also turn in fine performances and give Smith some of this best scenes.

This is an actor's film and it seemed all the major players, including the young actors playing Venus and Serena, did their part.

It hits home as a parent

"King Richard" felt very real to me as a parent. Many of the choices from the real Richard Williams have been scrutinized and criticized over the years. The film helps us realize that if anyone one of us had our parenting put under the international spotlight, it would likely be torn apart, as well.

As parents, we want nothing more than the success and well-being of our kids, but we sometimes get blinded by our own wants for their achievements that we tend to forget to ask what they actually want. All of this is on display in "King Richard."

I am not in the same position as Richard Williams. I don't have five daughters I'm raising in Compton, California, that I'm trying to keep safe and off the streets. I don't have two kids that are, as Richard puts it in the film, the next "two Michael Jordans." I am also not a Black man trying desperately to be successful in a field where your daughters are virtually the only minorities. But I am a father trying my best to give my kids their best opportunity, and because of that, this film felt very personal.

Director Reinaldo Marcus Green and writer Zach Baylin have made a very unique story very universal and it made me connect with the film in a way I was not expecting.

The faults

Pacing and missing information are issues

"King Richard" covers multiple years in a family that has a lot of story to tell. It could not have been easy to figure out what to tell, what to leave out and how to construct it and overall I think the filmmakers did a fine job. But the film does struggle with pacing issues at times.

The movie's runtime is two hours and 18 minutes, but there were times I felt like we had been in the theater for hours. I wasn't necessarily bored, but the movie did feel much longer than it actually was.

The other problem with covering so much material was that we, as the audience, missed out on some of the story that seems important. Again, I fully understand that you can not cover everything that happened in the lives of this family, but there are some chunks missing that I was really wanting to be filled in on when the credits rolled.

What parents should know

"King Richard" is rated PG-13 and I think it is the right rating.

However, I also think there are different kinds of PG-13 movies these days. You have what I'll call the Marvel PG-13 that seems to make up much of the theater fare these days; films that have action and violence but are light on language and are still geared toward younger audiences. You then have PG-13 movies like "King Richard" that are low or sometimes void of violence, language and sex, but have an overall heavier narrative and are geared toward a more adult audience.

I think some of the themes and lessons in "King Richard" could be good for kids to see and learn, but the movie will likely be too heavy and probably boring for younger audiences. There is some language and a little violence that is more disturbing than what you find in a Marvel movie. There is something about a man getting punched in the face for protecting his daughters that feels different than watching a man in a suit kill an unnamed alien.

Is it worth watching?

"King Richard" is a movie with some fantastic performances and a tangible story, but just misses the mark on being a really great film. But don't get me wrong, I liked the movie and thought it was a very good movie, just not quite as good as I think it could have been.

"King Richard" is rated PG-13 for violence, strong language, sexual references and brief drug references. It opens in theaters and will be available to stream on HBO Max on Friday.

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John Clyde

About the Author: John Clyde

John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about. To contact John, and read more of his articles, visit his author page.

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