As a pal of star Jaden Smith, the Biebs is being supportive about the release of the already much-reviled film "After Earth" and is encouraging everyone to see it via Twitter:
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) May 30, 2013
It's nice of him. Especially since no one else is being anywhere near as nice about the M. Night Shyamalan-directed sci-fi flick that reunites father-son duo Will Smith and Jaden Smith, the co-stars of "The Pursuit of Happyness."
"You know you're in trouble when you find yourself feeling sorry for one of the world's wealthiest teenagers," wrote Alfonso Duralde at The Wrap. "And you're definitely in trouble when you wish the mess of a movie he stars in could be as entertainingly rotten as 'Battlefield Earth.'"
[Oof, a "Battlefield Earth" reference ... never a good sign.]
Lou Lumenick of the New York Post kept up his publication's reputation for pun-happy headlines with "The Son Don't Shine on Smith's 'After Earth,'" going on to say that the film is "Smith and his real-life son, Jaden (both affecting ridiculous mid-Atlantic accents) talking the audience to death for something like 90 minutes before the closing credits." Lumenick also says he gave the film a rating of one star out of four simply because "Smith's longtime enablers at Sony apparently encouraged him to whittle this humorless sci-fi epic down from a much longer movie."
Director M. Night Shyamalan, whose name is conspicuously missing from all of the film's marketing materials, gets blasted by Lou, too. "Eleven years and several progressively more dreadful movies after 'Signs,' director M. Night Shyamalan would be lucky to get a gig directing traffic," he wrote. Meanwhile, Dustin Putnam says the film "bears the mark of a work-for-hire who has all but given up."
Really, several critics are having a field day with this one, taking off the gloves for what looks to be the summer movie season's first official disaster.
"The level to which 'After Earth' is a catastrophe is amazing," wrote Laremy Lagel of Film.com, saying that the film is "terrible right from the outset, and woe be upon the person who holds out hope that it will get better after the initial wobbly start."
Colin Covert of the Minneapolis StarTribune digs even deeper by mentioning the film in the same sentence as the man whom many consider to be the Worst Director of All Time. "'After Earth'" is a work of hubris magnified by multiple miscalculations, the kind of film that would cause Ed Wood to excuse himself and skulk to the exit."
The on-screen pairing up of father and son also seems to add an uncomfortable and distracting layer to the proceedings for some critics.
"As Will Smith coldly instructs [Jaden Smith] to feel, to root in this moment now, to master his own creation, I felt the purest horror I ever have at a Shyamalan film: What if this is what Jaden Smith's life is actually like?," wrote Alan Scherstuhl of the Village Voice, quite the companion piece observation to Duralde at The Wrap pointing out that "'After Earth' tells the story of an inexperienced boy trying desperately to please his father while making one mistake after another, and as such, it becomes an uncomfortable metaphor for itself."
The most creative slam currently goes to Peter Sobczynski of eFilmCritic.com, who manages to conjure a comparison to the wretched "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" video game created for the Atari 2600 over 30 years ago. "Watching 'After Earth' is not only akin to watching someone playing the old 'E.T.' game that Atari put out back in the day but it is one of the few entertainment experiences that compares unfavorably to that legendary betrayal of audience goodwill," Sobczynski writes.
"After Earth" has some supporters, though. Jordan Hoffman of ScreenCrush admits that it's "dumb" and "asinine" but also "thrilling and adventuresome" and, ultimately, "good fun." Michael Phillips of Chicago Tribune actually praises Shyamalan's work as director and says the film is "attractive." And Michelle Alexandria of Eclipse Magazine says the movie "spent a lot of time teetering on the verge of failure but both Smiths do enough to pull it back and make it fairly enjoyable."
And then there's Justin Bieber, who like the elder Smith is quite the formidable and influential celebrity, encouraging us all to go see it. But will a handful of "it's not so bad" reviews and Biebs' blessing be enough to salvage this cinematic crash-landing? Maybe the Smith Men will rise to the occasion after all.