The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Gabriele Muccino Gabriele Muccino
Will Smith Will Smith
Jaden Smith Jaden Smith
Thandie Newton Thandie Newton
Brian Howe Brian Howe
James Karen James Karen
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> Best of '06

7.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Drama, Family Drama, Inspirational Drama
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: December 20, 2006
Blame the trailer. I would have never given two craps about seeing this film if not for the brilliantly constructed and perfectly summarized trailer for "The Pursuit of Happyness". It just hit all the right notes. The trailer made me cry more than most films have this year. Typically, an inspirational film about a father and son trying to make it would not be on the top of my list of films to see, but this film was receiving so much positive buzz, plus the trailer was great and Will Smith is one of the most versatile actors working in Hollywood today. So, last night, with nothing else to do and the weekend crowds dulled to a minimum, I went to the local cineplex to catch "The Pursuit of Happyness" and make sure I was prepared when the Oscar nominations were announced. If the buzz is any indication, coupled with the staggering opening weekend numbers, it should come as no surprise that I am giving "The Pursuit of Happyness" a high score and calling it one of the best films of the year. If it comes as a surprise, then you really haven't been paying attention.

Based on a true story, Will Smith stars as Chris Gardner, a down-on-his-luck father and husband who is doing everything he can to keep his family his float. He works as a salesman, pushing medical contraptions that are only slightly better than X-ray machines, but cost twice the money. His wife, Linda (Thandie Newton) works double shifts at the factory, and is bitter and resentful towards Chris not earning more and supporting his family better. His son, Christopher (Jaden Smith), is just happy to be a kid, loves his Captain America action figure, and attends a daycare in Chinatown where he watches "Love Boat" and "Bonanza!" for history, and reads the profane graffiti on the wall outside for English. As their financial situation gets worse, Linda leaves, and Chris and Christopher are left on their own. One day, Chris decides to apply for an internship at Dean Witter, as a stock broker, and is amazingly accepted into the program. The remainder of the film deals with Chris working his butt off in an unpaid internship while trying to keep he and his son off the streets and fed. He does surprisingly well considering how useless those medical machines seem.

There aren't many bad things you can say about such a sweet film. Director Gabriele Muccino has managed to make a sweet and sappy little drama without making it sweet and sappy. I just sat through "Bobby" the other night and it was one of the sappiest films of the year, though the last act of the film brought it home. Somehow, "The Pursuit of Happyness" avoids the cruel fate and manages to entertain the audience throughout. We find ourselves viciously rooting for Chris and his son to succeed; we find ourselves frustrated with every thing that happens to the family; we find ourselves cheering at the end of the film, though I won't reveal why. I also enjoyed the well-placed humor in the film, that sometimes couples as subtle sadness, as when Chris sees a homeless girl who stole one of his medical machines and chases her through the streets of Chicago to track it down. We can see the humor in the situation, but we also see the desperation and the sadness in the eyes of man who won't be able to feed his son if he can't get that machine back.

With the Oscar buzz already riotous, let me go ahead and throw my name in the hat with all of the other critics - Will Smith will be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. This is almost as sure a lock as Charlize Theron was for "Monster". However, he will not win. He will not win because, as finely tuned and as nuanced as his performance is, his performance in no way compares to Forest Whitaker in "The Last King of Scotland". If he does win, by chance, it will be deserved and it will be because Will Smith totally sank entirely into this role - he became Chris Gardner and he made us believe it. This is not the Will Smith you're use to seeing in "Hitch" and "Men In Black", or even "Ali". This is a true acting performance and it's the best thing he's done thus far in his career. In supporting roles, Thandie Newton is just wonderful as Chris' wife, taking us up and down the rollercoaster of emotions so seamlessly. She steals several scenes. Smith's real life son Jaden is as adorable as possible, and still manages not to come across as one of those cute and sappy little kids from most films - he is rather good. And, in even smaller supporting roles, the underrated character actor Brian Howe was very stable as Jay Twistle, and "The Simpsons" vocal juggernaut Dan Castellaneta is hilarious as the leader of the internship program.

So, I am delighted to say that my 'pursuit of cinematic happyness' was successful. I found myself smiling throughout this picture. Even when I was crying like a baby, I had a smile on my face. For me, the most emotionally wrecking scene comes (and you see this on the trailer) when they are in the subway station and Chris pretends there are dinosaurs all around them, to get his son involved and entertained at the same time. This whole sequence is one of the most genuine scenes from any film I have ever seen, and Will Smith plays it flawlessly. He should receive a nomination for this scene alone. "The Pursuit of Happyness" is one of those films that you watch a hundred times because you just don't get tired of inspirational stories. It's one of those films that becomes a cemented part of your film library, and you show friends when they come over. To sum up the film in a rather corny way, this film was all the 'happy' without any of the 'sappy'.

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crAckerr #1: crAckerr - added 12/26/2006, 10:52 AM
Only thing, those weren't the streets of Chicago. The film was set in San Francisco mannnn.
Ginose #2: Ginose - added 03/12/2007, 10:27 PM
This movie was amazing... I was shocked.
I heard Will SMith really loving himself over this role and I thought "Fuck... the Fresh Prince is tooting his own horn... again..." He had good reason, he was amazing in this, I honestly felt bad for him. This movie was splendidly uplifting... I slept well that night, I tell you. 9.2/10
danimigra #3: danimigra - added 03/15/2008, 06:44 PM
Finally a pretty good movie from the actor will smith... i hate all his movies but this one is cool.
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