Release Date: December 15th, 2006 by Columbia Pictures.
The Cast: Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith, Brian Howe, James Karen, Dan Castellaneta, Takayo Fischer, Kurt Fuller.
Directed by Gabriele Muccino.
BASIC PREMISE: Chris Gardner (Will Smith) and his son (Jaden Smith) go from rags-to-riches in San Francisco.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Convincing performances by Will Smith as Chris and his real-life son, Jaden, as Christopher, barely help to save The Pursuit of Happyness from being dull. It also suffers from a heavily contrived, by-the-numbers plot that very rarely feels authentic, despite being based on a true story. The first act shows Chris unable to pay the rent for him, his son and his wife, Linda (Newton). She gets fed up with their poverty, moves out of the house and, soon enough, Chris gets evicted. He obviously has the smarts to succeed—he can solve a Rubik’s cube very quickly and sells bone density machines. Yet, for some reason, he has many obstacles along the way to his financial success. These obstacles include two homeless people who steal his expensive bone density machine, which he luckily manages to retrieve in both cases. He manages to get a job as an intern at a brokerage firm, but apparently doesn’t realize that it’s actually an unpaid job. Much of the screenplay by Steve Conrad gyrates between Chris' good luck and bad luck which, eventually, feels tedious, convoluted and over-simplistic. Director Gabriele Muccino doesn’t seem to know if he wants this to predictable yet entertaining Hollywood movie or a serious true-to-life drama. He ultimately fails to cater to both kind of movies and the result is rather underwhelming. For a glossy yet thoroughly entertaining rags-to-riches movie, rent The Secret of My Success.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: None, other than the clichéd, over-simplistic message that you can achieve anything you want no matter what as long as you set your mind to it. In reality, life isn't always fair. Good fortune doesn't eventually come for everyone and can't always be controlled or even predicted easily, especially given the status quo of the U.S. economy where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Contrived, convoluted and by-the-numbers.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 6
IN A NUTSHELL: Strong performances by Will and Jaden Smith, but contrived, convoluted, over-simplistic and underwhelming.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: VHS/DVD
The "P" Menu