Forget what you heard about that infamous slap. "Men in Black 3" star Will Smith loves having a movie to promote and absolutely adores being the center of attention.
And thank heavens for that. There are enough sulky, misunderstood artists clogging the red carpets these days, and not nearly enough movie stars willing to give an impromptu rap concert on a decommissioned aircraft carrier with help from their two kids and the D.J. who helped make them famous in the first place.
Yes, Will Smith performed a handful of songs with his old partner D.J. Jazzy Jeff on the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City on Wednesday night at a post-premiere party for the sequel that had guests wondering just how much, exactly, Sony Pictures had paid for the event. There were 4,000 guests. There was a performance by Pitbull. There were never-ending supplies of deli sandwiches, chinese noodles, Dunkin Donuts and Bombay Sapphire gin. And there was a no-messing-around fireworks display by the Grucci Family -- the same people who light up the entire Hudson River on July 4 every year.
The first sign that Smith would make a cameo as his hip-hop alter ego, the Fresh Prince, came when his 13-year-old son, Jaden Smith, joined D.J. Jazzy Jeff on the stage to spit some precocious rhymes of his own. The crowd of industry insiders and Fleet Street sailors cheered when Will joined the Karate Kid for the second song, and cheered again when he helped daughter Willow up onto the stage not long after. She never sang, but danced along gamely to the theme to "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Men In Black," and the 1991 hit "Summertime."
Earlier in the night, Smith had navigated the red carpet at the Ziegfeld Theatre without incident. Publicists had warned journalists not to ask about last week's confrontation in Moscow, when Smith pushed and lightly smacked a reporter who tried to kiss him. (Apparently, that's the poor guy's schtick.) Tommy Lee Jones, however, either didn't get the memo or ignored it. "How's life in Moscow?" he asked, more than once. When Smith laughed and hugged him, Jones mimed giving him a smack of his own.
The pair's teasing dynamic was on display inside the "Men In Black 3" premiere event as well. Smith, who apparently has no "off" button, wouldn't keep quiet during director Barry Sonnenfeld's opening speech. Finally, the director shouted -- with mock outrage -- "WILL SMITH!" Smith blamed Tommy Lee Jones for the interruption, claiming the actor just wouldn't shut up. Later, when Sonnenfeld introduced Jones, Smith launched into a chant of "TLJ! TLJ!" And as the actors were returning to their seats, Smith loudly called out, "All right, where my wife and kids?"
That irrepressible extrovert energy helps carry the film -- a well-crafted spectacle that should amuse families of all ages, as long as they don't think too hard about how the various time-traveling parts fit together -- and made Wednesday's event on the Intrepid one to remember.
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