'Bel-Air' Review: Reboot has EVERYTHING to make it as relevant as the original
Let's face it. 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' is one of the most iconic sitcoms to air on American television. With Will Smith playing lead, the NBC show known for its comedy almost always seemed to find a way to fit in moments where some wisdom was imparted. Though most of the cast members took turns in doing so, it was the late James Avery who seemed to share the best advice. To find out whether the 'Bel-Air' version of the legendary Uncle Phil is able to live up to the standards set by Avery is a topic for another story and we will get there eventually. For now, let's see how the show fares and if 'Bel-Air' is worth a watch.
'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,' the 3-minute theme to the sitcom of the same name, narrates how a boy from the neighborhoods of West Philadelphia ended up in a posh mansion in Los Angeles. 'Bel-Air' starts similarly but in a darker and more dramatic way. The show begins with a peek into the life of Will Smith (Jabari Banks) and it's a vibe! Even though it's just a few scenes, we get to see and at times feel the energy of the city and Will's neighborhood. Now, Smith isn't your average kid from the hood. He scores high points, both on the court and in class. The ladies think he's cool and that includes his mother. His skills on the court catch the attention of scouts but also of the antisocial elements in his locality. News of Will being scouted starts doing the rounds and this is when the tide, sadly, begins to turn against him. Will's challenged to a game by the neighborhood bully and though he wins the game, Will loses everything else after a fight breaks out on the court.
He's flown to Bel-Air to live under the supervision of his uncle and aunt, Phillip and Vivian Banks. Will soon finds out that he's going to change his approach to life if he wants to make it back home and how he manages to do it forms the rest of the story. Through the course of 'Bel-Air,' we get to see the challenges Will faces and how or if he overcomes them.
With 'Bel Air' what series director and creator Morgan Cooper does is, he takes one of the most loved American TV shows ever and retells it for the current generation. If 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' addressed the issues that African-Americans faced in the '90s, 'Bel-Air' does the same for the era it's set in, minus the comedy. There's some symbolism in play too, with references being made to the OG show by throwing visuals of a crown. The series also explores the inter and intrapersonal relationships of the main characters. We get to see dive into the psyches of most of them and though each episode runs for almost an hour, we rarely look at the time.
Jabari Banks plays Will Smith perfectly, but what he's even better at is playing the 16-year-old who is just trying to find his own voice. The rest of the cast members do a great job as well but it's Adrian Holmes as Phillip, Olly Sholotan as Carlton, and Coco Jones as Hilary, who really add more to 'Bel-Air,' The actors, through their roles, address things of stark relevance including assimilation, cultural appropriation, subtle racism, and in short try to answer a question that's plaguing the African-American community. What does it take to be a Black person in America?
The crew, especially the cinematographer and the writing team, have gone the extra mile to make 'Bel-Air' a must-have experience. Special mentions to those involved who put together the soundtrack for it's going to make you use Shazam often!
All in all, 'Bel-Air' is a reboot, or rather a retelling, that is of equal relevance to its original.