‘Bel-Air’ Brings The Fresh Prince Back To His Throne In This Amazing Remake – Review
What started off as a mock trailer developed by director, producer and writer Morgan Cooper turned into the Peacock original Bel-Air, once the project got into the hands of Will Smith himself. Audiences can return to watch a kid from West Philly navigate the lux life of Los Angeles’ Bel-Air neighborhood. To breathe new life into the character of Smith’s namesake is newcomer Jabari Banks. Joining him in this reimagining is Adrian Holmes, Cassandra Freeman, Coco Jones, Olly Sholotan, Akira Akbar, Jimmy Akingbola, Jordan L. Jones and Simone Joy Jones.
If you know the original show’s iconic theme song, then you’re aware that this is a story all about how Will’s life got flipped-turned upside down. But for those not aware, Will is a charismatic, confident, and intelligent high school student and star athlete in his native West Philadelphia. After a run-in with local drug dealers goes wrong, he’s sent to live with his Aunt Viv (Freeman) and Uncle Phil (Holmes).
There, he reconnects with them, their children, Hilary (Jones), Carlton (Sholotan), and Ashley (Akbar), meets their house manager Geoffrey (Akingbola), and finds friends in Jazz (Jones) and Lisa (Jones). In West Philly, he’s a prince, but in Bel-Air, he’ll have to start over, as he struggles to build a new home and make a new name for himself behind the golden gates of Bel-Air.
Bel-Air’s predecessor, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, was a sitcom beloved by many. For six years, the show gave us a front row seat to watch Will Smith’s charisma resonate on-screen, while he and the Banks family, navigate their class differences in comedic ways. It propelled Smith into a household name and was a vehicle for his small and big screen endeavors. Now, over 30 years after the original show ended, a reimagining of this sitcom has arrived and Jabari Banks is ready to continue the legacy Smith created.
As Bel-Air is a reimagining, it doesn’t try to be what The Fresh Prince was. Instead, it shines bright in a medium where remakes tend to be solely for nostalgia’s sake and lack substance to stand on their own. Bel-Air pays homage to the famed sitcom in a variety of ways, from characters, to imagery, and even dialogue, that is sure to make the original cast members proud and bring an added flair of nostalgia to those familiar with the original series.
Speaking of cast members, the ensemble brings a strong well-roundedness to their respective characters that highlights how dynamic Black culture is. The charisma of Banks’ Will and Jones’ Hilary resonate largely on-screen and the pair are simply a joy to watch. Additionally, Banks brings plenty of emotional strength and confidence to a role that was largely a comedic one in its precursor. What’s also interesting is how the show provides nuanced takes on Black parenting and family, with Freeman’s Aunt Viv and Holmes’ Uncle Phil as a vehicle for this.
The sitcom handled serious topics, while wrapped in comedy. But since Bel-Air is a drama, it tackles topics of race, privilege and class head on. Sometimes it leans heavily into this, but like many dramatic remakes, it walks a delicate line between promoting Black joy and the realities of being Black in the U.S.
Thankfully, the show knows what it’s meant to do and embodies various sides of the Black experience that aren’t regularly featured on TV. Viewers will see all of this unfold as each character’s narrative stitches together a story on wealth, social standing and Black family dynamics.
This show sits comfortably at the intersection of nostalgia, drama and Blackness. Out of the remakes that continue to flood your streaming networks, Bel-Air is the one you should be watching. A new fresh prince has arrived and you’ll thoroughly enjoy watching him secure his throne.