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"The Pursuit of Happyness"

Directed by Gabriele Muccino.
Written by Steve Conrad.
Starring Will Smith, Jaden Smith and Thandie Newton.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  12/30/06


"The Pursuit of Happyness" is just one of those nice stories, made better by the fact that it is based in reality, that no matter how predictable the movies can get, it's still fun to see how someone overcame struggle to get to a better place in life.

Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith, the real Chris appears near the end of the film) has got it rough.  It's 1981 and he sells a bone marrow device that is only slightly better than using an x-ray, but costs nearly double what a radiology machine would go for.  So, he is barely making it cash-wise each month, which has forced his MOST-unappreciative wife (Thandie Newton) to work double shifts at her job five or six days a week.  They have a young son (Jaden Smith, Will's real-life kid) who is in day care in Chinatown five days a week, and they're three months behind in rent, and the family car has so many parking tickets on it that it's being towed away as we meet this, they've got it bad.

Luckily, the Rubik's Cube has just come out.

See, it's the Rubik's Cube--and little bits of luck along the way--that help Chris out of his situation, most notably in a chance meeting with the guy that oversees Dean Witter's internship program, Glide Church, and a lot of hard work once Chris runs out of those silly bone devices.  The wife leaves him and the landlord boots him from the apartment, and then he gets booted again after the tax man comes a-collectin'...somehow, Chris and his little boy persevere, in San Francisco of all places, not exactly the cheapest one to live in.

"The Pursuit of Happyness" is actually a bit difficult to sit through because almost everything goes wrong for Chris and then (no surprise to you, I'm sure) he gets a little glimmer of hope as the movie ends.  The wife treats her husband and son like shit, Chris is constantly running to catch a bus, a job or a break, The Man comes down on Chris every chance he gets, even the kid looks like he is being hustled around from place to place as Chris walks faster than any father in film history.  (Seriously, that element becomes funny after a while, watching the kid try and keep up with his dad; I still remember going to the mall with my mom growing up, and NO ONE walks faster than my mom when they need to get errands done.  NO ONE.)  It's a mental pounding in many ways, broken up only occasionally with a little laugh here or a little smile's mostly tough-going, but the film is so well performed that you make it through just fine.

Smith is great, and it's nice seeing him play a character who doesn't tote a gun all movie long.  Even though Jaden Smith was asked to "audition" for this part and he "beat out" a couple thousand other kids for the part (yeah, right), he is actually quite good and certainly cute enough for the role he is playing here...he looks just like the kid from "The Boondocks" but otherwise, he is not a distraction.  Newton looks so strung out I can't believe there wasn't a drug element to her character in this movie, but she's great as the wife that no man wants to know is waiting at home.

It was a little long and, again, a little tough to sit through, but "The Pursuit of Happyness" is mostly a great film.  Enjoy...

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09