I've decided to change up the format a little. The posts have started to get pretty long, and I regret to say boring. So instead of typing as I watch the movie (which ends up with a whole long synopsis of my random thoughts as I watch), I'm just going to give a short plot outline, a few of my random thoughts, and some intel on the movie and the actor I'm working on. Hopefully, this leads to shorter, more enjoyable posts! Like I said when I first started this blog, it's my first attempt at something like this, so I'll probably be changing things up from time to time...
Made in America
As you may have noticed, I'm going a tad out of order, because it takes some time to find the movies that I don't own myself. This is one of Will Smith's very early movies, released in 1993. One of my other actors of focus, Whoopi Goldberg, is also in this movie, along with Ted Danson and Nia Long.
Will Smith plays the role of Tea Cake Walters. Nia Long is Zora Mathews. Whoopi Goldberg is Sarah Mathews (Zora's mother). Ted Danson is Halbert Jackson.
The short story is that a young black woman named Zora, along with her pal Tea Cake, discover that her father, Hal, was an anonymous sperm donor. Even worse, he's white! This film puts a wild spin on family values and racial identity.
The first scene is of Whoopi riding her bike over a 'No Bike Riding' sign, which for some reason, I found very entertaining. This is a 90s movie through and through, but I'm a 90s girl, so I kind of liked it. There are some big names in this film, but they don't dominate. They let the new guys have some of the spot light, too, which gives Will Smith the opportunity to break into movies more. I think Nia could use some acting classes, but it's an early film. The scene where she finds out about her father and confronts her mom is a little unrealistic and not nearly emotional enough, but Whoopi pulls out another wonderful performance.
I think I'm gonna have nightmares about the desk nurse at the sperm bank talking in slow motion. Creepiest scene in a movie I've seen in a long time. But watching Will Smith playing a self-conscious teenager is worth it, in my opinion. Comparing these early roles to things like I Am Legend and Seven Pounds is pretty crazy. Will Smith definitely grew up!
Ted Danson plays some sleazy, cheesy car salesman, which just depressed me, but he pulls it off fairly well. Granted, she hasn't told him that she's his daughter, yet, but hitting on her just grosses me out. I know it's supposed to, but yuck. He eventually turns a corner and gains our love back, but at the beginning, he is a pure skeezball.
Holy cow! Oldest can of Mountain Dew I've ever seen in a movie! Love old product placement.
Ted Danson finds out he has a daughter, gets attacked by a bear, and then gets electrocuted. Sounds like a good day to me! Maybe if he wasn't such a horrible person, he'd have better karma, if you believe in karma...A couple days later he rides an elephant into a lake. This guy is not an animal person...But, hey, apparently all you need to do to sell cars is ride an elephant through town! Carsalesmen, take note!
Geesh, I could really use some more emotion from Nia. She is killing me...But when she tells Whoopi that her dad's white, the outburst made me laugh out loud. Whoopi definitely knows how to pull off an outburst.
I wonder how Zora's gonna feel about her parents dating. Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg...never thought I'd see that couple breaking everything in an apartment...Zora finally shows some emotion, but I still don't feel it realistically.
Will Smith plays an adorable kid next door who's trying to be more than that (very similar to his role in Fresh Prince). And Ritz crackers probably doubled their sales after his subtle product placement. I'm glad advertising companies got slightly better at that. Anyway, he didn't have a huge role in this movie, but he played the nerdy boy-next-door very well. He even did his little running man dance that Will Smith does so well. His graduation speech was pure Will Smith genius. He's just one of those actors who, in my opinion, never falls prey to that actor dilemma of looking like you're acting. He just falls into a role and looks like himself. And, in this movie, you get the bonus of getting to watch him wag his butt back-and-forth. :-) I think this movie provided the proof that Will could translate his comedic flare from Bel-Air to the big screen.
This movie takes a very comedic twist on a fairly serious topic of "the white and black thing". When Hal shakes Tea Cake's attempt at a fist bump, I cracked up. "Yeah, I read black literature. Wilt Chamberlain book. Changed my life." And then he ate the entire wasabi ball at the Japanese restaurant...he's not exactly culturally knowledgeable. "Silly move, white man." Good ice breaker, though, and I thought it did a great job of loosening up the audience to the comedy feel of the movie.
It's a fairly by-the-book story: Mom and Dad meet, Mom and Dad fight, Dad changes everything about himself, Mom and Dad get a long, Mom and Dad fight, Mom ends up in hospital, Mom and Dad live happily ever after. It might be an obvious movie, but I think there are enough twists throughout this movie to make it worth watching. Critics did not agree with that, when the movie came out, but what do we care what critics think, right? It's not one of my favorites, but it's a lightweight, feel-good comedy that isn't supposed to be over-analyzed. We more-or-less avoid the cringes of cliche romantic comedies, and focus on the laughs. It might not be one of Will Smith's biggest roles, but I can see how it helped him break into the movie business.
Random Facts About Made in America
Will Smith's Tea Cake Walters got his name and personality from actor T.K. Carter.
The character Hal Jackson was based on Cal Worthington, owner of the Worthington Dealership Group, who often appeared in car dealership commercials with exotic animals.
I hope you've enjoyed listening to me watch movies! If you have suggestions on how to make the blog more enjoyable, I'm all ears. I can't guarantee that I'll listen to you, but there's a chance. :-) So let me know what you're thinking!