Thursday, December 14, 2006

REDUCED SACCHARIN CONTENT

Posted on Thu, Dec 14, 2006 at 4:00 AM

***
The Pursuit of Happyness
Length: Single
Studio: Sony Pictures Releasing
Rated: PG-13
Website: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/thepursuitofhappyness/
Release Date: 2006-12-15
Cast: Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith, Dan Castellaneta, Zuhair Haddad
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Screenwriter: Steve Conrad
Music Score: Andrea Guerra
WorkNameSort: Pursuit of Happyness, The
Our Rating: 3.00

Admit it, you already hate this movie. If you don't, what's wrong with you? A literal rags-to-riches story about a guy who, despite all odds, with great perseverance and dedication to his son, goes from being strapped to being broke to being homeless to being a very rich stockbroker? Ick. The guy is played by super-adorable Will Smith and the son is played by Will Smith's extra-super-adorable son? Double and triple ick. Stop me if I'm making you nauseous, but going into it, there is absolutely no reason to believe that Pursuit will be anything but a syrupy feel-good flick as cute and simple-minded as its misspelled title. Somehow it is and it isn't. Expertly paced, intimately shot, cunningly scored and competently acted, Happyness benefits as much from the inspiring true story it was based on as it suffers from it; the series of hard-luck events that put Chris Gardner and his son on the streets are comical in their relentlessness, while the two's struggles are quite unfunny in their reality. Smith and, er, Smith, not surprisingly, have a solid rapport and embrace their roles believably, but it's Thandie Newton ' as the shrewish and slightly unhinged bitch of a wife who instigates their downward spiral ' who provides the most animated spark. Smith's take on Gardner is numbly stoic: We only see him cry twice; once when happy, once when at a true low point. While the mischievous (and somewhat annoying) glint the actor brings to many of his roles is toned down here, the master-class bullshitting skills that he displays as Gardner are the extent of his 'personality.â?� Still, The Pursuit of Happyness ' as over-the-top as it seems conceptually ' actually deals out its heartstring cards subtly and never comes off as too cloying. It's the sort of feel-good film that doesn't make your teeth hurt.

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