By Fred Topel | Image property of Columbia Pictures.
The Pursuit of Happyness
Pursuit of Happyness makes Working Girl look like a whiny brat. It's a jiggy Secret of My Success. It's like the best very special episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Somebody stop me.
Review: The Pursuit of Happyness
Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a struggling medical supply salesman with big dreams. While he's living day to day, he sees stock brokers living large. If only he could be a stockbroker, then he could provide for his family and his wife would stop yelling at him. But the only way in is an internship program, which requires even more sacrifice before he can get anywhere.
They beat Rocky Balboa to this year's underdog story. You could not think of more circumstances conspiring against poor Chris. The exact moment when he needs to be somewhere to make a deal happen, that's the moment someone else chooses to follow up on their issue with him.
As dark as it gets, there are always sweet and funny moments in each crises. Smith brings his witty charisma to situations that should get him fired, and charm to moments that border on negligence.
There are plenty of Hollywood moments. He keeps running into the same people at opportune moments for the plot. And it's not just one symbolic homeless person. There are two street folk who cross paths as if their lives only functioned as supporting characters in Chris's story.
The Pursuit of Happyness Trailer
At a certain point, he starts succeeding in unexplained ways. Like products that weren't moving at all suddenly fly off his shelf in a montage. It's not vital to the plot. He still has hurdles to overcome. But it's weird that something that was such an obstacle before is now just tossed off in a line of dialogue.
Despite these shortcuts, Pursuit of Happyness is never slow or boring. It's never annoying. They achieve the sympathy and feel-good redemption that one expects from these movies.
It's less about Chris's son and more about his own struggle, so it rarely falls into that overly cutesy pandering. When it does, it's usually in what would otherwise be a really dark moment, so it's appropriate to go there.
Smith does his manly emotion, choking back the tears that are clearly there so he's sensitive but not a wuss.
It would be nice if this movie inspired kids to work hard, but they'll probably just see that he got a lucky break at Dean Witter and keep on waiting for someone to hand them something. That would be my Christmas wish though, a good work ethic for all and to all a good night.