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Brad Pitt finally did a popcorn movie with World War Z so his older kids could watch something of his - "please Mom not Tomb Raider 2 again"- together.

This bit of parental guidance came with a US$200 million price tag for a troubled shoot of a movie which largely abandoned its source material of Max Brooks' 2006 best-seller. Still, it's all worked out rather well. WWZ is a fast-paced oddly gore-free pandemic-disaster movie which spectacularly rewrites the rules of zombie-dom.

Meanwhile, Will Smith, no stranger to blockbusters, has been dragging kids to work for a while now. This time he's got his boy Jaden doing most of the heavy lifting in a father-and-son post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller.

A thousand years into the future Smith and Smith - senior an interplanetary general, junior a space cadet - end up as sole survivors of a spaceship crash on Earth, the planet long abandoned by mankind and where the biosphere is now a health hazard.


From an idea by Pop Smith, After Earth is written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, after his awful The Last Airbender. This is yet another strike-out. At least he can partly blame his stars. The Smith double-act may be talkshow gold, but here, they are just leaden.

Dad's role is confined to sitting around bleeding, barking daft orders via video link to his boy who is running around the countryside being pursued by local fauna as well as the alien monster they carelessly brought with them.

The blind beastie can smell fear so the youngster must overcome his. If only he would stop being so whiney about it ... and if only the movie didn't turn into Lord of the Rings - complete with monster's lair, volcano climb, helpful giant eagle, gymnastic swordplay - in the closing stages. Add a remarkably ugly production design and a daft allusion to Moby Dick, and you've got one cosmically silly movie. You just hope the Smiths will laugh about it one day, like the rest of us are now.

World War Z also starts off as a family story.

Pitt plays former UN troubleshooter turned doting dad/house-husband Gerry Lane. He is dragged back in as the world goes to hell in a swarm of "zeeks" and his brood find sanctuary on a US warship.

The movie has much lumpy exposition, Daddy's-gotta-go-save-the-world-now syrup and an seeming transplant of an ending that isn't quite a tissue match for what's gone before. But as Pitt dodges the undead across time zones, it's hard not to get as excited by its big dumb thrills as his boys will be.

But even they might think: if only this came with a joystick ...

World War Z
Stars: 3.5/5
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos
Director: Marc Forster
Rating: M (violence, offensive language & horror)
Running time: 116 mins
Verdict: Pitt's zombie epic deserves to go viral
Screening: Previews this weekend opens June 19

After Earth
Stars: 1.5/5
Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Running time: 100 mins
Verdict: Lost in space
Screening: Now