15 December 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: "The Pursuit of Happyness"

December 15, 2006 05:09 PM EST
© 2006 by Digital Dogs

Stop right there! Don’t correct the spelling of the word Happyness in the title of this Will Smith outing. It’s a minor plot point that will all become clear when you see this film. Suffice it to say you might also be in a state of Happyness when you leave the theater after seeing this warm and involving true story of a remarkable man as played by another remarkable man, Will Smith. This is the perfect film to see over the holidays with everyone in your family and you will leave the theater with tears of Happyness in your eyes.

This film marks Will Smith’s entry into the world of serious dramatic acting and his work here makes clear that we can expect great things to come from The Fresh Prince. The Pursuit of Happyness is the true story of Christopher Gardner, an intelligent and loving family man in dire straits who is desperately trying to keep his family afloat. He and his wife Linda (Thandie Newton), the mother of his 5-year-old son, also named Christopher (and played by Smith’s real life son, Jaden Smith, who also has a long career ahead), are struggling under constant financial pressures. Their fragile financial state leaves Linda with what she feels is no choice and she decides she must leave them to make a go of her own life.

Suddenly a single – and very devoted – father, Gardner continues trying to sell bone scanning machines he had invested all his available cash into while trying for an internship at a prestigious stock brokerage company. Due to Gardener’s charisma and intelligence he lands the non-paying gig hoping he will end the program with a job offer and a better future. Since no money is coming in, Gardener runs out of funds to pay his rent and is turned out of his apartment with his young son in tow. Heart-wrenching scenes of Gardner and his son sleeping on the subway, waiting in lines to get space in a shelter, even spending nights on the floor in a men’s bathroom in the train station are painful to watch.

Happyness is Italian director Gabriele Muccino’s first English language film and he proves he has a deft touch with actors. Of course, Will Smith’s presence in this film is a beam of charisma and intensity and it is his work that lifts this film out of the Made-For-TV / Movie-of-the-Week genre the script really falls into. Attempts at lightening this sad story with humor involving the bone scanners, a missing shoe, and a speedy Rubik's Cube solution in a cab all help to make Gardner's struggle very human and very real.

A truly American rags-to-riches story, The Pursuit of Happyness is the story of what one man can do to end the cycle of poverty and get off the street. Today the real-life Chris Gardner (who can be seen in a cameo at the end of the film) is a millionaire who has devoted himself to the betterment of others. His story, as told on 60 Minutes and on Oprah, resonates with millions of Americans who are living on the edge, barely making it from paycheck to paycheck. The Pursuit of Happyness is a 21st century It’s a Wonderful Life and is an inspiration to all.


Digital Dogs rating: B

MPAA rating: Rated PG-13 for some language

Running Time: 117 minutes

Producers Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, James Lassiter, Steve Tisch, Will Smith, Teddy Zee, Director Gabriele Muccino, Screenplay Steve Conrad, Editor Hughes Winborne, DP Phedon Papamichael, Actors Will Smith, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, Thandie Newton, Dan Castellaneta

© 2006 by Digital Dogs



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