Despite her many talents, Jada Pinkett Smith is no stranger to the occasional misfire. While the versatile actor/producer has been in many hits, she’s also been a part of some of the biggest bombs in recent memory.
In one case, one infamous flop‘s negative press was so bad it nearly shook up her entire family. But decades after appearing in two of the most reviled movies of the ’90s, Pinkett Smith remains a dual-threat who continues to overcome the sporadic Hollywood setback.
‘A Low Down Dirty Shame’ was Jada Pinkett Smith’s first critical flop
On paper, the 1994 action-comedy A Low Down Dirty Shame had plenty of promise. Written and directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, the movie follows the escapades of private investigator Andre Shame (Wayans). It aims for a tone somewhere between Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop. Wayans already won an Emmy as the creator of the TV series In Living Color. But he first made a name for himself by writing and directing the 1988 action-comedy I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.
The result of his directorial follow-up was an absolute mess, at least according to critics. Fresh off her role in Albert and Allen Hughes’ acclaimed drama Menace II Society, Pinkett Smith is featured as Wayans’ loud-mouth partner as he tries to save his business. An ex-con previously arrested by Wayans in a former life, Pinkett Smith plays both sidekick and thinly sketched love interest. Whiffing on both the action and the comedy, the movie holds a rare 4% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It served as a reality check for both Wayans and Pinkett Smith.
But even though it was one of the worst-rated movies of the 1990s, there was a silver lining. The only positive review from a top critic praised Pinkett Smith’s performance, writing, “Stealing the film, though, is the sassy, witty and always loud Jada Pinkett…” via The Virginian-Pilot. Without Pinkett Smith, A Low Down Dirty Shame would have joined the exclusive 0% Rotten Tomatoes club.
‘Woo’ was actually a bigger bomb than ‘A Low Down Dirty Shame’
While critics enjoyed shredding A Low Down Dirty Shame, audiences were nowhere near as disappointed. Shame earned an inflation-adjusted $65 million domestically, which isn’t bad at all compared to contemporary releases per The Numbers. For comparison, well-liked 2022 comedy Jackass Forever made $57 million this year despite playing at nearly three times more theaters than Shame did in 1994.
But that commercial success did not materialize at all for Pinkett Smith’s romantic-comedy Woo. In the titular role, Pinkett Smith plays a quick-witted single woman who can tie prospective suitors into knots. Meanwhile, co-star Tommy Davidson plays a buttoned-down law clerk falling for Woo despite being in over his head.
Critics were simply not having director Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s stab at screwball comedy. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is an anemic 10%. Despite generating some acclaim for her 1995 directorial debut, Party Girl, von Scherler Mayer was taken to task for creating a one-dimensional retread of the odd-couple routine. Audiences didn’t like it much either when it launched in May of 1998. While Shame made about three times its budget in theaters (unadjusted), Woo earned only 60% of its production budget and was quickly dropped from many theaters (via The Numbers).
‘After Earth’ was an all-around catastrophe for the Smiths
Despite taking some heat for Woo, Pinkett Smith quickly rebounded with roles in Spike Lee’s 2000 satire, Bamboozled, and The Matrix Reloaded. But the Smith family would eventually walk into a complete disaster with sci-fi flick After Earth in 2013. Set a thousand years in the future, After Earth follows a father and son duo (Will Smith and Jaden Smith) trying to survive attacks from hostile aliens. Jaden previously starred as his father’s onscreen son in The Pursuit of Happyness.
Despite an enormous $130 million production budget and high expectations, After Earth was harpooned by most critics. Its 12% Rotten Tomatoes rating even ranks as the worst of Will’s career and a low point for director M. Night Shyamalan.
But it was Jaden who seemed to take the criticism the hardest. Excluding The Day the Earth Stood Still, Jaden’s other early roles were in well-rated movies—including the blockbuster remake of The Karate Kid (per Rotten Tomatoes). The After Earth criticism was so bad that Jaden even toyed with the idea of filing for emancipation from his famous parents, who both served as producers of the film. Ultimately, Jaden would take a break from acting to launch a successful music career.
While not every child gets led into a Hollywood disaster by their parents, the Smiths also know a thing or two about redeploying talent in new directions. Following starring roles early in her career, Pinkett Smith has produced a series of popular movies and TV shows since her ’90s flops, including (Daytime) Emmy-winner Red Table Talk. Per IMDb, she’s also executive producing the upcoming Kevin Hart comedy Uptown Saturday Night and is starring in drama Redd Zone, from Oscar-winner Mathew A. Cherry.