The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday September 27th

'Fresh Prince' Dances Way Out of Corner With 'Ali'


Will Smith has come a long way from his days rapping the theme song to "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

In the turnaround performance of his life, Smith takes the showmanship and emotion of Muhammad Ali to the big screen. Looking deeper into his life, "Ali" shows the historical and emotional conditions that surrounded this controversial fighter who changed the face of boxing forever.

Although disjointed at times, trying to show too much in too little time, the film manages to flow nicely through Ali's rise, fall and rebirth. The conditions of the civil rights movement are nicely woven in, lending a deeper view into Ali's mind, but sometimes seem odd.

The assassination of Malcolm X, while both interesting and important to Ali, seemed like a strange tangent. Scenes were thrown in almost at random, and the flow of time was poorly handled. Although historically many years passed as the events unfold, as far as the audience was concerned it could have been a couple months.

But Will Smith saved the film from mediocrity with his acting flexibility and intensity. Pigeon-holed as a performer-turned-over-the-top action star, Smith proves critics wrong with an emotional performance that leaves you drop-jawed and wide-eyed.

From falling in love (with a shocking amount of different women) to falling on his face, Smith's skills never waver. He even manages to capture Ali's facial features, body movements and speech patterns. Under the guidance of the man himself, Smith became Ali in the performance of a lifetime -- proud, pompous and powerful.

The script, which boasted both realistic dialogue and top-notch development, pulled a variety of powerful and moving emotional scenes out of Smith and the supporting stars. Ending with an inspirational triumph over the bear-like George Foreman, the film unfurled the plot and characters in gorgeous form.

Troubled by a few minor flaws in the narrative pace and some seemingly random tangent, "Ali" captures all of the emotion in Ali's battle to the top -- with Smith leading the way.

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