The Stream: The Richard Williams accent takes a bit to get used to.
The Big Screen: Will Smith, of course, but also everyone else in the cast too!
The Final Bill: A heartwarming, inspirational, and crowd-pleasing family drama.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Writers: Zach Baylin
Stars: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Demi Singleton, Saniyya Sidney
Genre: Drama, Sport, Biography
Runtime: 2 hours 19 minutes
Production Companies: Overbrook Entertainment, Star Thrower Entertainment, Warner Bros.
Platform: In theaters November 19, 2021 and HBO Max
Happy Thanksgiving, Streamers! Many celebrate this holiday by gathering with family over a sprawling meal and acknowledging the many blessings we’ve received throughout the year. Here’s something I am thankful for: Will Smith’s latest film, King Richard.
Good segue, huh? Yes, I’m thankful for the movies – good and not as good. This season is chock full of family friendly entertainment, and King Richard provides an inspirational family/sports drama that can be enjoyed by the everyone around the dinner table. Here’s how I see it.
King Richard tells the remarkable story of how Richard Williams (Will Smith) created and executed a plan of turning his youngest daughters, Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena Williams (Demi Singleton), into tennis superstars. The Williams family lives in Compton. They have limited financial resources to access the best coaching, equipment and courts needed to foster tennis talent; but Richard Williams is very resourceful and headstrong as he doggedly pursues his goal of making Venus and Serena tennis champions. Richard has the support of his wife, Oracene Williams (Aunjanue Ellis), as they struggle to raise 5 daughters in the hardscrabble and dangerous life of Compton all while navigating the roadblocks to tennis stardom. If you’ve paid attention to any tennis in the last 20 or so years, you know how it turns out.
Will Smith does a great job of embodying Richard Williams. While the accent and posture are a little off-putting in the beginning, you quickly relax into the performance. Smith is able to portray this determined father, who suffers from tunnel vision, some self-centered arrogance with a touch of narcissism; but, he’s also disarming in an oddly charming way. Smith gives a centered performance that highlights how effectively Williams is able to support and parent his daughters through their success. While Smith is the main character, the remainder of the cast is uniformly good. Please, somebody, give Aunjanue Ellis all of the awards and accolades she deserves. She is so good here as she matches Smith’s performance beat for beat. Ellis is as fierce and warm as she needs to be. I’ll also note that Saniyya Sidney is wonderful. She has some really winning moments throughout the movie.
King Richard is almost 2 and a half hours long. That usually gives me pause because a good story can be told in less than 2 hours. Even though this movie’s runtime is that long, it never drags. The editing of this film keeps it moving – never boring the audience and always maintaining the dramatic tension inherent in this true story. The tennis matches are infused with energy and show the talent of these powerhouse players. It all comes together to make 2 and a half hours breeze by.
Side Note: Stay for the Beyonce end credit song and great footage of the real-life Venus, Serena and Richard Williams.
Unabashedly, I’m a fan of King Richard. It tells a remarkable and inspirational story. Even though you know what kind of success this family achieves, it is still exciting to watch throughout. Richard Williams is a fascinating character that Will Smith plays well. The entire cast is aces. This is a film that the entire family can enjoy together over the weekend. Grab a big box of popcorn whether you are at the theater or streaming on HBO Max.