Many movie critics are hammering "Hancock," which opened Wednesday as Hollywood's holiday fireworks offering. Sure, the movie misfires here and there. But it stars Will Smith, one of Hollywood's most formidable actors. Here's why he's a go-to guy for leading roles:
THE MONEY ADDS UP
Smith's total box office amounts to $2.2 billion. That puts him near Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford territory. Smith's past five films show he can be counted on to generate an average of $180 million per picture. Forbes said in December that for each dollar in Smith's paycheck his movies average $10 of gross income.
THE BEST PART OF 'HANCOCK'
It's Smith. His sulky, boozy take on superherodom becomes the perfect foil for a marketing makeover from peppy Jason Bateman.
THE WORST PART OF 'HANCOCK'
The film sputters at times from too-much heavy-handed direction and big sprays of computer-generated effects.
Offscreen, Smith can't help but let his big, but charming, ego flow. He has fun with the public (in Los Angeles, I watched him climb up bleachers at the Oscars' red carpet to meet and greet fans). And with journalists (before an interview for "Ali" in New York, I watched him be a big fat flirt, playfully embarrassing a female writer when she admired his muscles).
3 BEST PERFORMANCES
He was vulnerable and yet determined to climb out of poverty in "The Pursuit of Happyness" (2006), a tower of power playing iconic Muhammad Ali in "Ali" (2001) and slyly controlling and eerily dangerous in "Six Degrees of Separation" (1993).
ON BECOMING ALI
"The fear that I felt beforehand was the great potential of messing it up," Smith said. "Of being the guy that ruined the Muhammad Ali story and just how Ali would look at me. And that fear is what created a really almost psychotic drive. I never missed a day of running. Never missed a dialect-training course. Never missed my Islamic studies. Never took a good shot [in the ring] and quit. ... I would always say to myself when it got hard, 'Do you want to be the champ?' Invariably, the answer was yes."
3 BEST ACTION MOVIES
So honest, trustworthy and likable in "Independence Day" (1996), so cocky and likable in "Men in Black" (1997), and so oversized and likable in "Bad Boys 2" (2003).
3 WORST MOVIES
The giant mechanical spider underwhelmed "Wild Wild West" (1999), Robert Redford played it too safe directing "The Legend of Bagger Vance" (2000), and the comedy rarely connected in "Hitch" (2005).
And how big is Smith? That last movie still made $179 million in North America and $368 million worldwide.
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