It’s game, set, match to Will Smith

Will Smith, Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton in King Richard (Warner Bros Pictures)

Will Smith aces it in King Richard with a vivid performance as the father of not one but two future tennis greats – Venus and Serena Williams. Source: CNS.

Smith energizes this intriguing fact-based sports drama while the script, penned by Zach Baylin, promotes an array of positive values.

Director Reinaldo Marcus Green’s film recounts how their dad – by turns determined and, as the nickname of the title suggests, domineering – overcame long odds to fulfill his dream of making his daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) world-renowned champions.

Among the obstacles barring his way are the meagreness of his economic resources, the dangers of life in Compton, the gang-ridden Los Angeles neighbourhood his family inhabits, and the racism, both institutional and personal, he frequently encounters. But Richard also is hampered by the downsides of his own personality, especially his stubbornness and desire to control others.

These negative traits bring him into conflict with a duo of highly regarded coaches, Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn) and Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal), potentially jeopardising Venus and Serena’s professional prospects. They also cause friction with his dedicated wife, Oracene, aka Brandy (Aunjanue Ellis).

Still, much of what Richard insists on from his girls – including academic excellence, self-discipline, thoughtful planning, relentless hard work on the court, and the proper balance of confidence and humility – will resonate with moviegoers. Both parents also provide a remarkable example of unflagging persistence in the pursuit of a seemingly improbable goal.

A generally upbeat, though overlong, success story, King Richard makes significant ethical points that grown-ups will appreciate. Some vulgar dialogue aside, moreover, there’s not much to prevent the sharing of those life lessons with older adolescents.

Review by John Mulderig, CNS.

King Richard: Starring Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton. Rated M (Mature themes, violence and coarse language). In cinemas now.

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King Richard (CNS)

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