[Screen It]


(2021) (Will Smith, Saniyya Sidney) (PG-13)

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Drama: A determined father doesn't stray from his plan to turn two of his daughters into tennis champions.

It's the early 1990s and Richard Williams (WILL SMITH) is a security guard who lives in Compton, CA with his nurse wife, Brandi (AUNJANUE ELLIS), and their five daughters. Despite being quite young, Richard's two biological girls, Venus (SANIYYA SIDNEY) and Serena (DEMI SINGLETON), are so good at tennis that he's written out an elaborate plan of how he's going to turn them into champions. It begins with finding them a coach which he does in Paul Cohen (TONY GOLDWYN), but that only lasts so long, what with Richard's refusal to stray from his plan and his continued bits of coaching from off the court.

Things look up when the girls impress famed tennis coach Rich Macci (JON BERNTHAL) who agrees to have the family moved to Florida so that Venus and Serena can train with him at his school there. But Richard's lone decisions not only put a strain on the new coach, but also Brandi and the girls, which puts their chances of succeeding up in the air.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10

Aside from the abusive, selfish, and egotistical ones out there, most every parent's dream and desire is for their child or children to achieve more than them. Quite often though that results in some parents pushing their offspring so hard that they become tyrants who berate their young charges for any misstep, large or small, or temporary lack of motivation.

We've all seen those types who yell at their kids for making a mistake during a sporting event or not winning whatever competition they might have entered. You certainly feel bad for the kids, but also -- in a way -- for the parents for being so damaged and projecting whatever their issues might be onto their children.

Of course, it's also the parent's job to instill proper work ethics, mindsets, and more into their kids, resulting in a delicate balance of encouragement, advice, and discipline that's usually hard to achieve. But when it's done right, the results can be glorious. As can a film about such true-life endeavors, and that's certainly the case with "King Richard."

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green from a script by Zach Baylin, it's the tale of security guard Richard Williams and his family. While that name might not ring a bell, those of his two most famous daughters certainly will...Venus and Serena, two of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Although I have no idea how close to the truth the film portrays the events and real people, the result up on the screen is a highly engaging and entertaining origins story featuring an amazing performance by Will Smith in the title role that should earn him all sorts of admiration, nominations and possibly wins this upcoming award season.

The film begins with Richard out trying to find a coach better than him for Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton), only to be turned down time and again and despite -- or maybe possibly because of -- him having already drafted a highly detailed timeline plan for both girls to become world champions.

He eventually gets the interest of one such coach, Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn), but what with being a king and all, Richard's word is the final one and that occasionally puts him at odds with that man and sometimes Richard's wife, Brandi (Aunjanue Ellis). All while burning the candle at both ends and having to contend with some young gangbanger punks who've set their sights on Richard's oldest stepdaughter.

When another coach, Rich Macci (Jon Bernthal), then comes along and sees potential in the girls, Richard negotiates the family's move from Compton to Florida, and while all the trappings that come with that -- including a big, fancy house -- would seem to indicate the man is doing this for his own ego and financial gain, he sticks with his plan that has his girls and their future as the most important thing.

While the screenplay throws in some material to heighten the drama and show some of the title character's warts, it's otherwise a fun and entertaining, feel-good flick with good performances all around, especially from Smith. I wasn't sure what to expect when I sat down for the film, but it quickly and easily won me over. "King Richard" rules the sports flicks of 2021 with every ace it serves and thus rates as a 7.5 out of 10.

Reviewed November 3, 2021 / Posted November 19, 2021

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