Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness: Grade D

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Will Smith, Jaden Smith (Will’s son), Thandie Newton. Director Gabriele Muccino.

My wife urged me to rent this movie because she adores Will Smith. I admit he is cute, and his son is even cuter, and Smith exudes earnestness here, but cute & earnest don’t offset an extremely syrupy story. He tries to sell a medical device that nobody wants, so he can’t make rent even though his crabby wife (Newton) works double shifts in a laundry. The landlord is howling at the door. Things get worse when the wife leaves and father and son must stay in a homeless shelter downtown. Smith applies for an extreme longshot stock broker’s job at Dean Witter. His wife says sarcastically, “Stock broker? Not astronaut?” and she is right to be incredulous. Nevertheless, he gets the job, and overlooking the fact that it is illegal to make sales calls without first passing the broker’s exam, Smith knocks himself out and eventually makes millions, which defines happiness, apparently. This trite morality tale shows how a smart, fit, hard-working guy with no vices, through no fault of his own, can find himself way down on his luck, yet maintain dignity, humor, compassion and ambition. That’s a nice fairy tale, even though it is hard so see why somebody his age with his experience, smarts and ambition would be in such a fix. Where’s his navy pension, for example? It might be an instructive story for kids under 12, but adults can skip it.

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