“After Earth” is Will Smith’s version of Take Your Son to Work Day. Actually, he lets 14-year-old Jaden take over the whole office. Smiths Sr. and Jr. play a futuristic father and son who crash-land on an Earth that mankind long fled; the son has to cross 100 km of dangerous wilderness to save them both. It’s sweet that a Hollywood superstar dad has given his son a movie of his own to prove his worth, and this one is a passably entertaining adventure best suited to 10-year-old boys. But to carry a movie, you need acting chops and basic screen presence, and I really regret to report that Jaden Smith has neither. Sshhh, M. Night Shyamalan directed, and it’s (marginally) better than “The Last Airbender.”
-- Ty Burr, Globe Staff
While the real-life father-son pairing is certainly a key promotional angle for this movie, the Smiths diverted attention from that theme by giving what the Guardian deemed “the most bizarre interview in Hollywood history.”
In a strange Q&A with Vulture, Will and Jaden Smith discussed their “theory of everything,” from how patterns can be used to predict anything from who will win the Academy Award for best actor to whether this father and son duo will make another movie together.
In a scathing assessment, The Guardian wrote that you can “feel yourself becoming actively less well-informed as you read, as if the celebrity’s words were eliminating your brain-cells, one by one, like bubble-wrap being popped.”
In Gawker’s even more blunt recap of the interview, which the headline calls “[expletive] insane,” writer Caity Weaver says the Smiths “espoused wondrous theories of high level imagimathematics previously published only on the wrinkled insides of fast food takeout bags in a frantic, crayoned hand.”
While Will Smith carefully sidestepped Scientology questions during the interview, this didn’t help matters:
'AFTER EARTH' Being Called out By Critics for Scientology References...drudge.tw/18COvEv— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) May 31, 2013
For his part, director M. Night Shyamalan is sticking to the script in interviews, discussing how the pairing of Will and Jaden Smith was an easy marketing move for the film’s producers.
“My theory on this campaign was—you’re going to laugh when I say this—‘Let’s sell this as “The Pursuit of Happyness: Part 2,” the director told Moviefone.com, referring to the last time the Smith boys appeared on camera together. “I was like, We are going to have the two of them on the poster—it’s a father-son story, we have the most famous father-son duo acting, that’s what [audiences] should be thinking when they walk into the theater.”
The marketability may have been sky-high, but unfortunately for the “After Earth” crew, critics didn’t seem to care.
Ty Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.