Anthony's Film Review

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
(TV Series, 1990-1996)

The show is funny and very interesting from start to finish...

For those of you in the younger generation, Hollywood actor Will Smith used to be on TV. Before that, he was a rapper called the Fresh Prince, alongside DJ Jazzy Jeff. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was Smith's transition from music to television to movies. You could say that the show represents the middle part of his career in entertainment. And I can tell you that the show is a good one.

Will Smith plays a version of himself named Will, who, as the show's theme song explains, grew up in Philadelphia and got into some trouble with a couple of rough guys. His mother, concerned that he should learn responsibility, sends him to the wealthy town of Bel-Air in California to live with his rich uncle Philip Banks (James Avery), aunt Vivian Banks (first Janet Hubert-Whitten, then Daphne Maxwell-Reid), and cousins Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribiero), Hilary Banks (Karyn Parsons), and Ashley Banks (Tatyana Ali). Completing the household is the British ex-patriate butler Geoffrey (Joseph Marcell).

One interesting thing is immediately apparent. Despite the socioeconomic class differences between Will and the Banks family, they are all similar in many ways. Will is no less eccentric than his relatives. For one thing, Hilary is a shopaholic and Carlton is a nerdy fan of the singer Tom Jones. And Philip does have a temper, especially with Will being around.

The various situations are often funny. Will Smith is great here as a comic actor, whenever the focus is on him. Even if there are no laughs, as when the episode deals with a serious topic, the show is very engaging. This is why I can remember comical episodes, like Will surviving an earthquake, as well as the dramatic episodes, like Carlton getting shot at an ATM machine.

The first time I watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, I was amazed about how it can work as a family show. Will is not portrayed as a troublemaker who turns everyone's life upside down, nor is he a bad role model. Instead, he is someone who means well, despite coming from a poorer upbringing in Philadelphia. And even if he does do something wrong, we laugh instead of cringe.

Perhaps the greatest strength of the show is continuity. The only truly abrupt change is the casting for Vivian Banks. That's really it. Just about everything else is the same for the show's entire run. Even the theme song appears in each episode from the first to the last. Shows often change their opening theme song or introductory sequence, but Fresh Prince doesn't. I think it's good, because having the same theme song in the final episode reminds us of how much Will Smith has grown and made us smile all the way through.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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