I really like Will Smith as an actor, and even in his blockbuster films he's made a good impression. I'm sure he can do serious, (there was that strange film with the Newmans: Six Degrees of Separation, for example) but in this film things are serious to the point of excluding the audience almost entirely. I don't think it's Smith's fault by any means. He does very well with a completely underwritten part - the man is saintly for no particular reason at all - but that's not why the film fails. It fails because it's all in one tone: downbeat, and miserable, and gloomy and so sorry for itself it can't find anything to be happy about. By the time the brief happy moment comes, Smith's character is on the point of exhaustion, and so are we. He looks as though he's about to collapse, and I felt as though I'd been dragged through a wringer backwards. I don't remember a well-made film in a long time that irritated me so much.
Much of the fault lies in the hands of the director, who's made it as though it's some neo-realist movie from the fifties, with Hollywood class overlaid. (Even the doss house is pretty smart-looking.) And the script gives the actors nothing to go on. We never find out why Smith's wife is such a harridan. She may be having to work hard, but so is he! We never get close to any of the other characters; they're all just bodies in a film without personalities. Even Dan Castellaneta turns in a Mr Serious performance that's annoying in the extreme.
I don't know what all the hype was about this movie, unless it was seeing Will Smith doing serious. Even he seemed convinced it was his big movie. Sorry, Will, not this one.