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Will Smith Is Funny in ‘Bright’

You might scoff at the Netflix fantasy buddy-cop movie, but you’ll definitely laugh at its star

Dan Evans

Bright, the new buddy-cop film on Netflix, is not a good movie. It’s just not. It (probably) could’ve been, but it (definitely) isn’t. (That, of course, didn’t stop Netflix from green-lighting a sequel.) So absolutely, assuredly, certainly, unquestionably, do not take this article to mean that. Because that’s not what it’s for. What it’s for is to say a single sentence: Will Smith is funny in Bright.

He isn’t always funny in Bright, either by design (it’s mostly a cop drama, not a cop comedy) or by accident (some of the supposed-to-be-jokes are just bad, like in the first few minutes when, right before Will swats a tiny fairy to death with a broom, he declares, “Fairy lives don’t matter today,” and when you watch that scene you should make sure you sweep the floor beforehand so if you roll your eyes so hard that they fall out of your head they won’t get too dirty). But he’s funny enough times to successfully argue: Will Smith is funny in Bright.

The funniest part in Bright happens about 10 minutes in. Will, who plays LAPD officer Daryl Ward, is riding in a car to work with his partner, officer Nick Jakoby, who is the first-ever orc police officer (an orc is basically a goblin) (I think). As they talk, Jakoby makes mention of how he thinks that Daryl is “lacking in love,” saying he believes so because all humans have a physical tell. Ward asks what the tell is. Jakoby tells him it’s the face. Ward, setting up a joke, asks Jakoby to show him a face that humans make. Jakoby does (it’s a frowny, pouty face), then says, “It’s a human who doesn’t get any more pancakes.” Ward laughs a bit, then Jakoby, who for the entire movie is seeking Ward’s approval, says he knows lots of faces, and can do lots of faces, hoping to use it as a moment to bond with Ward.

Ward, having found his opening, leans toward Jakoby smiling, and, in a perfect Will Smith voice, says, “Show me the face a orc makes when he just shut the fuck up and don’t say shit and just drive to work.” (I LAUGHED.) Jakoby, heartbroken, hangs his head in silence. “Yeaaaaaah,” says Ward, still smiling at Jakoby. “That’s it. That’s it! You got that one!” Jakoby stays disappointed and silent as the car drives off out of the scene. Ward continues to needle him. “Yeah, you’re killing that one. You should do that one. Do that one, like, all the time.” Will Smith is funny in Bright.

Another big funny moment in Bright happens 32 minutes in. Ward and Jakoby are responding to a call in a bad neighborhood, and as they’re walking around someone starts shooting at them from the second-story window of a boarded-up house. Ward and Jakoby duck off behind a car to avoid getting shot. While there, Jakoby says that it’s the first time he’s been shot at and that he does not find it very enjoyable. (Jakoby is kind of a dunce, but only in those kinds of situations and conversations. It’s probably due to him not being human, which means it’s probably supposed to be some sort of commentary on race relations in America.) Ward replies, “Yeah, it fucking sucks,” and then tells Jakoby that they’re going to stand up together and shoot at the shooter.

He counts to three, and they both jump up and unload their clips at the window, then duck back down. Ward, now being entirely sincere, asks, “You alright?” Jakoby says yes. Ward: “No holes?” Jakoby, after taking stock, says “Only the ones that I was born with,” then looks at Ward. “How are your holes?” Jakoby asks. And it’s funny, similar to how the pancakes line in the car scene was funny. But, same as what happened there, Ward trumps his joke with a bigger, better, smarter, funnier joke. He stares at him for a beat, scrunches his face up, shakes his head, then barks, “How the fuck do you make a shootout awkward?” Will Smith is funny in Bright.

Will Smith is funny in a lot of his movies (but not all of them; Concussion had zero big laughs in it, because, turns out, CTE isn’t funny). He’s funny with quick jokes and little faces (or, like in Hitch, a swollen face, as it were). He’s funny while being nice (like in The Pursuit of Happyness when, after a string of bad breaks forces him to sit down for a high-end job interview in a muscle shirt and paint on his face and hands, the interviewee asks him what he’d say if someone told him that a person without a shirt on got hired and he responds, “He must’ve had on some really nice pants.”). He’s funny while being uncomfortable (like in Bad Boys II when his partner, Marcus, finds out that he’s been dating his sister). He’s funny while he’s figuring things out (like in Hancock when he begins to suspect that a woman is a superhero like him). Will Smith is funny in Bright.

I like the part in Bright when some gangsters get Ward and Jakoby pinned down in a strip club. Ward is frustrated that Jakoby won’t take his advice on how to handle the situation (the gangsters want a magic wand; Ward says to just give it to them; Jakoby refuses). So Ward shouts, “Fuck it. I wanna die. Let’s do it. Right now. We’re gonna titty bar gunfight die.” Will Smith is funny in Bright.

I like the part in Bright when, after a long conversation about trust among police partners, Jakoby asks Ward, “Oh, so I’m supposed to trust you when you don’t trust me?” (The two have been quarreling since the beginning of the movie because Ward got shot by an orc while Jakoby was supposed to be watching his back, and then Jakoby failed to catch the guy who shot Ward after he ran off.) Ward looks at him for a second, absorbs what he’s said, then, plain-faced, responds, “That’s a good point.” Will Smith is funny in Bright.

I’m skipping a bunch of parts (like when Ward makes fun of a cop who’s been divorced a bunch of times, or when he tells a very powerful magic elf that she’s “gonna need to unfuck this, OK, you’re gonna magic us to Palm Springs or some shit,” or when Jakoby, after being brought back from the dead, tries to convince Ward that they’re in a prophecy, and Ward says, “We’re not in a prophecy, alright. We’re in a stolen Toyota Corolla, OK?”), but that’s the point. Bright is not a good movie. Absolutely, assuredly, certainly, unquestionably, it is not. But: Will Smith is funny in Bright.