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Saturday, November 27, 2021

King Richard 2021 * * * Stars


2021's King Richard refers to Richard Williams. He's the pseudo architect behind the success of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams. King Richard is not always about Mr. Williams though. It's about Venus too. Serena? Well she takes a back seat even though she's now regarded as the greatest female to ever swing a racket (something Richard declared circa 1994).  

King Richard is probably the greatest tennis movie ever. That's not saying a whole lot because I've only seen five of them and three have been bad (Jocks, Players, Wimbledon). King Richard is also light on its feet (no pun intended), has a pep in its step, and is full of jovial energy. The film could be a little more compelling however. I mean it doesn't reach those kinds of heights except in the first act (trying to practice some down-the-line shots in a seedy area of Compton, CA).

King Richard from a technical advisor standpoint, is pretty darn good. The tennis matches are well shot and you don't get that overwhelming feeling of CGI (remember Paul Bettany's Peter Colt trying to flex his forehand on those grass courts?). King Richard also blew me away with the casting of Saniyya Sidney as Venus Williams. Sidney's backhand looks pretty much identical to the one the actual Venus used to rip winners crosscourt. If you don't believe me just check the almighty YouTube. 

As a true story drama that would be worthwhile viewing for any aspiring tennis prod, King Richard feels somewhat unfinished even at 145 minutes. It doesn't really have a beginning and it ends about 3-4 years before the Williams sisters were ready to rule the tennis world. King Richard also suffers a little from being technically trite (I'm referring to the professional advice of the tennis teacher personas in the movie). Still, I can't help but recommend it. 

King Richard has great performances from three actors in Jon Bernthal (he plays tennis guru Rick Macci), Aunjanue Ellis (she plays Richard's wife Oracene), and Will Smith (he plays of course, Richard Williams). Smith is the standout here and deserves to be recognized by the Academy. He completely disappears into character just like he did in 2006's The Pursuit of Happyness. Heck, back then the Fresh Prince never stood a chance. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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