This is the story Smith wants to tell about his life: that of a fierce drive for success rooted in powerful feelings of inadequacy. Unfortunately, what feels like real anguish — and the seed of a worthwhile read — is repeatedly obscured by braggadocio and pat moralizing ... despite the book’s self-deprecating setup, it’s Will the Invincible who shines ... Prideful statements like these pump out of Smith like an oil spill in a sea of good intentions ... Perhaps this is just his way of demonstrating the 'overcompensation and fake bravado' that, he says, 'were really just another, more insidious, manifestation of the coward.' But such clunky teaching moments are overshadowed by the megalomaniacal ambition and greed on display ... Smith’s choice of writing partner, Mark Manson — author of the bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck — implies a desire to hold up his life as a model of sorts. Most chapters contain some hokey self-help boilerplate to signpost learning...But these nuggets feel so precision-engineered to showcase Smith’s hard-earned self-awareness that they appear trite, even insincere, when juxtaposed with his riotous magniloquence. The result is half-baked: real epiphanies bypassed; lessons unlearned. The book ends with a charity heli bungee jump over the Grand Canyon for Smith’s 50th birthday — an act of philanthropic egoism that perfectly embodies the unresolved tension between his savior impulse and an insatiable need to be The Man ... You like him despite the evident calculation at play: His foundational insecurity is part of his appeal; even while consciously selling his own vulnerability, he inadvertently reveals its true depths. And so, despite Will feeling more like part of a corporate strategy than a work of real introspection (even the acknowledgments redirect you to Smith’s Instagram), you’d probably still vote for him.
... a fairy tale of dazzling good fortune—albeit one told by a narrator who admits by the second chapter that he is unreliable, a lifelong embellisher for whom 'the border between fantasy and reality has always been thin and transparent' ... The book is also intermittently a call to self-actualization ... It’s more like a wild ride than a journey, however, one whose most valuable insights are to be gleaned not on Instagram but in a pre-web world of suburban basements, cassette decks, network TV shows, fax machines, party lines and playing outside ... Scenes from tours with Public Enemy and 2 Live Crew are amazing 3-D postcards from the rosy dawn of the genre ... Though Smith claims he didn’t read a book cover to cover until he was 'well into' his 20s, he has...literary aplomb (thanks partly to Mom-Mom) ... As the book progresses, and Smith’s celebrity becomes more stratospheric and snow globe-like, the air grows thinner; he starts to gasp for breath and turns inward.
... [a] 412-page personal unburdening ... Those early years are the subject of some of the most vivid and compelling pages, endearing in their innocence and authenticity ... his chapters covering his superstardom years are a lot less fun (Hollywood studio sets are sterile places) than reading about his times in small, sweaty underground hip-hop clubs ... His drive and ambition is admirable, as is his level of honesty and self-awareness, but, if we’re using the hero’s journey as our template, there appears to be little real atonement ... There is introspection and revelation, but in spite of understanding his own addiction to 'more, more, more' — more money, more fame, more success — he has also written a memoir that is likely to bring all three ... Despite all the therapy and shamanic rituals, Smith does not reveal much to his readers. For instance, he makes only vague and fleeting references to his open marriage with Pinkett-Smith, the source of years of media speculation.