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The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Season 4 DVD Review

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Season 4

March 12, 2007

Director: Jeffrey Melman, Madeline Cripe, Ellen Falcon, Michael Peters,
Starring: Will Smith, James Avery, Daphne Reid, Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons, Tatyana Ali, Joseph Marcell,

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DVD Review

Before he was a Bad Boy, before he was in Pursuit of Happyness, before he was kicking intergalactic alien ass, Will Smith was The Fresh Prince. In 1990, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was introduced to the world and it’s one of those shows that even though people have seen every single episode hundreds of times, you could still watch them a hundred more and is probably the reason the show is still a staple of broadcasting in the US and UK. For the uninitiated in the premise of the comedy, the title song explains it all for you, in a catchy easy to remember rap by Will Smith.

Born and raised in West Philadelphia, the troublesome wise-cracking punk kid, Will Smith, got in one little fight and his mum sends him to live with his wealthy, upper class Auntie and Uncle in Bel-Air, Los Angeles. The Banks family, complete with butler Geoffrey, take Will under their wing, as one of their own and slowly over time teach him to be a decent, educated, well-mannered young man – well that’s the plan anyway.

Season Four opens with a somewhat sombre two-part story for the usually light-hearted and hilarious TV sitcom. Uncle Phil is upset that most of the family seem to be leaving him, Will and Carlton are moving out to their own place and starting University, Hillary is getting married, Ashley is more interested in hanging out with her friends than her father and Vivian is totally preoccupied with the new baby Nikki. Nothing has changed in the Banks household, except the (obvious) new sets and the actress playing Vivian. The characters are evolving but are the same loveable bunch and season 4 offers up some truly humourous and entertaining television.

The writing is awesome and the scripts manage to bridge the gap between funny and dramatic, with the challenges that are placed in front of them; Will’s deadbeat dad shows up, Trevor has a bungee jumping accident, Carlton loses his virginity, Uncle Phil’s old girlfriend comes to visit, Jazz marries a convict and someone makes an attractive offer to buy the family home. It’s all going on in one of the best seasons of Fresh Prince.

There’s nothing flashy going on behind the camera so all the power is produced via the contrast between Will’s over the top wise cracks and loud mouth working perfectly against the superficiality of wealth that the Banks have. It’s that over-the-top style that really makes the characters shine and almost reduces the basic sets of living room and kitchen, into seeming like two-dimensional canvases. There’s no escaping the charm of the show, not even for the stars who are so identifiable with these sets and characters that they will be painted by the Fresh Prince brush forever and will always been know as “him” or “her” off of Fresh Prince.

At first glance, the sitcom might seem like its aimed at a minority audience with its predominantly black cast, but the fact that anyone is black is very rarely brought up and can sometimes be easily overlooked by audiences. Though aimed at young teenagers, there is something special about the Banks family that adults will be able to get on board with and even enjoy just as much as the kids. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is for the whole family.

The Will character is larger than life and fans can watch a superstar being born. The Banks family has way more money than the target audience, but as all good sitcom should be, most of the jokes are timeless and each episode has its point and important messages about family life and growing up that anyone can identify with.

Special Features:

Nothing and the menus screen are very basic and repetitive. A real shame and brings the whole DVD box set down.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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