Movie Review

Pursuit of Happyness

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language

Reviewed by: Patty Moliterno
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens
Genre:
Drama, Comedy, Biography
Length:
1 hr. 57 min.
Year of Release:
2006
USA Release:
December 15, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures
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Featuring: Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith, Dan Castellaneta, Zuhair Haddad
Director: Gabriele Muccino
“One Last Kiss,” “Remember Me, My Love”
Producer: David Alper, Teddy Zee, Mark Clayman
Distributor: Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures

“Pursuit of Happyness” opens in San Francisco where Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith) is living with his girlfriend Linda (Thandie Newton) and son Christopher (played by Will Smith’s real life son, Jaden). (The father-son bond is evident on screen.) Chris is trying to make a better life for his family by selling medical devices. Linda is worried about money, but Chris seems to be the eternal optimist. He wakes every morning and continues to pound the pavement even when faced with rejection after rejection.

Chris states that he met his father for the first time when he was 28 years old, and he wants to be a better father than that. He exhibits fierce determination throughout the film to protect and provide for his son. He is chosen for an internship as a stock broker at Dean Witter, but this 6 month position does not pay and Chris is on the brink of financial ruin. Chris takes the position and juggles the internship, medical sales job, and caring for his son. They end up evicted and sleeping in various places like the subway or a mission.

It was easy to identify with Chris in this movie. He is portrayed as a normal person who makes some good choices and some bad. But what really makes Chris a remarkable person is that he is able to find joy in some of these bad situations. He picks himself up, over and over, and continues on. Chris has a fight with his girlfriend, she says she is not happy anymore, and she leaves Chris and their son.

While this movie is rated PG-13, there is absolutely no sex in this movie, however, Chris is living with his girlfriend. In one scene, Linda and Chris are shown in the bathroom getting ready for work. Linda does not have on a shirt, and is wearing a modest bra. There is a non-sexual scene where the two of them are laying in bed together. In a few scenes, Christopher is shown in his underwear (which is quite typical for a 5 year old).

While I gave this movie a moderate rating for profanity, this rating may seem overly harsh. It is rare to watch a movie today where no one takes God’s name in vain. This was one of those rare movies. There are several vulgar words used (damn, hell, etc.) about a dozen times. Outside of Christopher’s day care is a mural with the word “happyness.” As Chris talks to his son about the spelling of the word, his son asks if the other word is spelled right (the F-word).

There are a few brief scenes of violence which are mild. In one scene, Chris and Linda fight, and their voices are raised, and Linda hits Chris. In another scene, Chris gets in a fight over a spot in line at the mission, and the two men push and shove each other. Chris is also hit by a car and thrown to the pavement. A few times, Chris speaks harshly to his son, and, in one scene, he grabs his son by the arm roughly and runs with him to the bus.

Chris is riding in a cab and does not have the money to pay the driver, so he jumps out while the cab is stopped at a stop sign and runs away. He often lies to keep others and his son from realizing how bad his situation really is.

On a positive note, Chris and his son stay at the Glide Mission and are shown sleeping, eating and attending a worship service there. During the service, songs are sung about Jesus Christ. In a cute conversation between Chris and Christopher, the son tells the dad a joke about a man waiting for God to save him during a flood.

Chris Gardner’s true story is an inspiration. He selflessly worked to provide for his son and tried to stay positive through it all. We as Christians are called to find joy in all of life. While this movie never mentions that it is Satan who tries to steal our joy, and only true peace and happiness can be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, it does manage to inspire viewers to remain positive throughout all of life’s situations.

In an interview in the Chicago Sun-Times, dated December 15, 2006, the real-life Chris Gardner is quoted as saying on the secret of success: “People ask me what’s my secret. I tell them, ‘Jesus loves me. He only likes you.’ I am his boy. I pray everyday, all day. So much I can’t get my work done. Now I realize I am working, just with Jesus on speed dial.”

I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone over the age of 13, and I would also recommend it to anyone who is unhappy in their current situation. Chris Gardner hit rock bottom and managed to turn his life around, and this should be an inspiration to us all.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer Comments
Positive
Positive— Great acting, great storyline, just beautiful.…one of this year’s best, I walked out feeling inspired, and that’s worth the $9! This movie captured the essence of the human spirit, what God has made us to truly become. When I saw this movie I was reminded of the story of Job, how God took away everything from him to see if he was faithful. In the movie Will Smith's character chris gardner lets one of his boss' borrow five dollars, and its the last of his money, when his money is returned it is with a greater blessing. I hope that anyone that watches this movie will be compelled to thank God for what one has even if its not much, for if we are faithful in the little we have, God will bless us with more. There are a few curse words, but they are not used in an offensive way, Chris Gardner’s son Christopher played by Jayden smith (Will Smith’s own son) asks his father a question of curiosity about a curse word, I used to work with kids and you’d be surprised what questions they ask, it is handled with sincerity and grace. Morally speaking it is full of examples of what perseverance, discipline and faith can do if we believe we can do all things through christ! p.s I always believe that you can hear God speaking to you in the most uncommon places, and I share this insight to whomever may read it because it touched my heart.
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Ami, age 22
Positive—This movie had me and a lady, a perfect stranger before the film, both in tears and laughter. It is a very moving story, and I hope many people will see it and learn that we can do all things through Christ. We must keep on going forward till the LORD takes us home. I liked this movie.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Carolyn, age 47
Positive—This is, in my opinion—one of the best movies I have seen in years. The only thing that I found offensive in the entire movie is that the little boy said the F-word—asking about it because it was written on the wall in spray paint outside his daycare… If that is the only truly offensive thing in a movie—well… Praise the Lord! Yes, there was a seen where she was in a bra—could have been a bikini top; it was very very modest… and the scene when they show them asleep in bed? In my opinion, totally against God’s plan—of course, we all should be married before sleeping/living together… but this is real life people—there are a lot of people having sex that aren’t married—it’s acceptable by the 'world'… so—if that is all that was 'bad'- morally about the movie… than that is good enough for me. This is more moral than most of the cartoons with their sexually suggestive remarks all over the place… so—GO SEE THIS—I guarantee you will be glad you did! This movie is moving, inspiring, raw, and authentic. Very rare to see movies like that anymore.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Megan Yonak, age 26
Positive—To put it plainly, this is just a terrific movie! There is one “F” word, where a little boy asks about the spelling. This is an inspiring movie about responsibility and overcoming trials and the obstacles life can throw at us. I am glad I took my 15-year-old daughter to see this movie so she could see what Chris Gardner overcame. Will Smith deserves the Academy Award for this role. This movie deserves A LOT of people to see it. I buy about two movies a year. This will be one of them when it is released on DVD.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Maggie, age 59
Positive—I viewed this movie with my fiance, sister and 15 year-old niece. The movie was a winner to me. I identified with the characters and thought the portrayals were realistic. Will Smith, who is becoming one of my favorite actors really demonstrated his range of emotion in the film. I also was impressed with his son Jaden. I was discussing the female character in the film with the ladies I was with and they were disappointed. They believed that she had a reason to be frustrated with her boyfriend and he could have been more understanding of her position as a mother, trying to work doubles to help provide for her family. The lady came across as bitter and angry throughout the film. A common stereotype of the African American woman. I could see Christ intervening and working in the lives of the characters plainly. Just like us, Chris made a multitude of mistakes along the way but, the Lord was evident. I was very happy to see the rescue mission and the worship service scenes which reinforced that the Lord will give us strength to climb our mountains, although He may not move them in our time. My heart was touched and I cared about the characters. It was wonderful to see an African American man caring for his child when the media constantly bombards us with images of drug dealers, gangstas and womanizers. All have not bowed to Bael!
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Darren Umble, age 38
Positive—In this day and age where the world truly is calling good evil and evil good, I am amazed that this film was made, accepted, and out there for us to be blessed by. This was an excellent movie. When it was over my son and I sat in the theatre and didn’t move. along with several others. There was definitely a connection. I was speechless. I silently wept. This film should definitely be a part of your library, so that when things go from bad to worse in your life you are reminded that “life happens.” Even for believers! God does allow and order our circumstances in order to humble and teach us lessons that all lead to character building. In light of your current circumstances? Things can be worse and this is not just a story about overcoming. Chris Gardner is an example of not being a whiner. We live in a society, and yes Christians included, that is spoiled rotten and that takes life for granted even our salvation a nd the blessings that God bestows upon us. This movie touched me like it did because I’ve been where Chris Gardner was minus the streets and homeless. I came very close however. I was a single mom with my son. His father was an alcoholic and left us. I was unsaved. I lived 8 years in the trenches and got saved in the midst of it all. Praise God! And speaking of which? The bible says that we must praise God not only in the good but in the bad as well. When we do this He protects us. The “F” word in this movie? Get over it. That was “one” word that was used for inquiry only. Children don’t know any different and that was a wonderful example of the innocence of a child. I would encourage any “religious and legalist” Christian to get over it and move through the parts in the movie that were offensive. And can I say something else? We are “not,” as Christians, to be offended or to take offense. It leads to resentment, and it steals your joy. Watch this movie for what it was intended for. It was a “true” story about a man that overcame and “didn’t let anybody tell him that he couldn’t do anything.” Oh, and recall too that this man loved Jesus Christ. At that time in Chris' life he portrayed a man as pilgrim just trying to make it in a world that wasn’t on his side. And those that serve the Lord will find the same while they journey to the promised land today, i.e. the country we belong to. We’re just passing through. It’s a race that Paul talks about. Our sights should be on Jesus and overcoming the world in our circumstances which is probably what Chris Gardner did. This movie was about overcoming in an unfair world. It should all humble us.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Barbara Richards, age 45
Positive—This is a great movie about overcoming and perseverance. It is well written and probably the best performance of Will Smith's career. His son never once appeared to be acting. I am a writer and a huge fan of cinema excellence both visually, and that of dialogue. I really don’t see how this film could be any better or have any more of a positive message. The f-word on the wall… if you blink, you might miss it and the dialogue. Possibly the best inspirational movie ever.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Robert, age 43
Positive—This movie was great! It had a good moral message to it about endurance and perseverance. Will Smith did a good job of portraying the struggles that the real life Chris Gardner went through. My husband and I found ourselves wanting to cry several times. It was a very touching story and we plan on buying it when it comes out. We totally recommend others watching the movie. The only negative things about this movie, is what is mentioned by everyone else; his girlfriend in the beginning getting ready in her bra and the f-word including a few other cuss words. But in general, all those are overlooked without compromising our values, because of the quality and message of the rest of the movie.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Evalani, age 24
Positive—This movie touched me in a very personal way. I have never been homeless, so there are many ways in which I cannot relate to Chris Gardner’s experience. But, for anyone who has ever had the water or electricity cut off, who has lived for weeks with a negative checking account balance, who has milked all the miles they could out of a 14-year-old car to keep a job, who has dug the hole deeper with credit cards to pay basic bills—it takes faith and strength to push through it and see the bigger picture. My family is on a path of repair financially, and it is being led by our growing relationship with God who always provides. Chris Gardner and his sweet son gained my respect and reminded me how much I want to be that example to my own little son. The movie reminded me to be much more aware of those around me. We never know the path they are on and the encouragement we could give.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Jennifer Paire, age 37
Neutral
Neutral—From a Christian perspective, this movie had a couple things that I disagreed with. There were a few instances of profanity, and I especially took issue with the use of a profane word by the child actor. Also, there were a few times when the lead actor lied, either out of embarrassment or to explain away something. From a movie reviewer’s perspective, I thought the movie was just okay. I wanted to like this movie, but I left the theater feeling unhappy and wanting my time back. It wasn’t awful, but I won’t be telling anybody to rush and go see it either. It just felt like something was missing from making this a better movie than it was. You know what it needed? A better actor in Will Smith's role. I believe someone like Don Cheadle or Samuel L. Jackson could have really made this a movie that touched you emotionally. Will Smith’s acting just wasn’t multi-dimensional enough. I just didn’t connect with him. I didn’t care about his situation. Even the chemistry between him and his real-life son was nonexistent, in my opinion.

Now, the scenes with the other actors were great. Thandie Newton was believable and riveting. The supporting actors at the brokerage firm were interesting to watch. …even the cab driver and the Asian lady at the child care center were great. But Will Smith needs to stick to action/adventure roles. The movie felt really long, and I was happy when it was finally over.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Rena, age 41
Comments from young people
Positive—This movie was very sad! And it was based on a true story which makes me think that it’s even more sad! The part where I started to cry was when they were homeless and the little boy asked, “Daddy, did Momma leave because of me?” I just got all teared up, and it just made me cry. But one thing that I didn’t really care for (which is why I gave the movie an overall 4½) was that it was kind of long and drawn out …every day he would get up, go to work come back home… then someone would steal his machine, then he’d have to run and go get it. But, otherwise, the whole movie was really good! I can’t wait to buy it!
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4½
—Samantha, age 12
Positive—This is possibly one of the cleanest movies to hit theaters and actually be GOOD. The only thing I found to be offensive was an f-word written on the wall of a school and a little kid asks if it’s spelled right. Along with that, a few milder profanities make their appearance, but other than that NOTHING should be offensive. This is a heart warming tale about a dad’s journey to raise his kids and get a good job. It is very sad, and I ALMOST cried. Everyone should see this movie to appreciate what they have in life and NOT take it for granted.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Jeffrey, age 16
Positive—This is one of the best movies I have seen in a while! It was great I went to it with my older sister (19 yrs. old) and my younger brother (15 yrs. old). We loved it! At the beginning it started out slow, but it kept building up in the actuality that these people had to live in. They had very little income, many bills, taxes, parking tickets and made through life well. They made it by trying their hardest to accomplish what was needed. Will Smith and his 5 year old son did a great job in portraying a family finding how much of something you can get out of very little. For example, just in the beginning of the film the whole family mother, father, and son all had only some of what we would say good tasting tea. The family made as much out of it as possible. Not wasteful at all. When dinner was done and all had what they could, all of the extra tea went right back into the pitcher and saved for later. I though to myself that seeing them doing that was very disgusting, but instead of grossing out, that is all they had, they made what they could out of it. And, in the end, I found out what I was thankful for, and I know if you take the time to go see it you will learn a lot about reality for those who have hardly any money. No matter what God will provide, just wait for His timing, not yours.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Jacob, age 16
Positive—This movie was very well made. It was a beautiful story about Chris Gardner, who is left by his wife and he insists of taking care of their five-year-old son Christopher. Chris then becomes broke and has everything that you would never want to happen starts but his relationship with his son is powerful! I recommend this movie for teens and up.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Sarah, age 14
Positive—This was a simply terrific movie. “Pursuit of Happyness,” a story about a man named Chris Gardner who goes from poor to homeless to stock broker to owner of a stock brokerage company, is one of the best movies you’ll see this year. Without a doubt, it is the most inspirational movie you’ll see this year. It’s emotional and dramatic like the previews would lead you to believe, but it’s not sappy. It manages to find just the right balance of emotion and drama and the final product is a truly great movie.

On a moral level, this is still one of the best movies you’ll be able to see this year. It has no sexual content, some content that could be considered somewhat violent, and some instances of profanity scattered throughout the movie (the worst being an f-word that Gardner’s son says innocently). An unfortunate thing in the movie is that Chris sometimes lies to others about his condition and one time he ends up having to run away from paying a taxi driver. The positive content, however, is in too great a quantity to really keep up with. Equally central to the plot of the movie is Gardner’s relationship with his son. The scenes between them are the best in the movie. Despite going through some very tough times, Gardner manages to be a great father (unlike the child’s mother) and is still able to share some joy with his son. In probably the best scene of the movie, Gardner also shares some wisdom with his son by telling him about not ever letting people tell him that he can’t do something (even his father) and to continue chasing after whatever his dream is. The movie also shows that Chris is a very hard worker (even though he doesn’t initially receive pay for one of the things he does) and that doing all the little things and trying to work as hard or harder than anyone else will pay off in the end. The list of the great things in this movie could go on and on, you’ll have to see it for yourself to see and appreciate all of it.

On a quality level, this is still one of the best. The film does a good job of taking us back to the early 80’s when Rubik’s cubes were a fad, the San Francisco 49’ers were actually good, Ronald Reagan was president, and when this country was facing an economic crisis according to Reagan. It does a good job of mixing in the 80’s music to give the film a true 80’s feel. The emotion and the drama of the movie really get you involved in it and make you care about and feel for Chris and his son. But to make sure the emotion and drama don’t make the film sappy, there are some light-hearted moments between Chris and his son. This film also incorporates a formula which I like. That is, the formula to have the film make you think that the darkness of their lives will continue, but then have that one moment towards the end to assure you that everything is going to turn out fine. My mom, who enjoyed the movie, complained that they didn’t show as many of the good results of his work as she would have liked. But I didn’t mind too much, because they were mentioned, but not shown.

Overall, this film comes highly recommended. I can’t stress enough how good it is and how much I think you should see it.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Ross, age 17
Positive—I went to see this film with my mom …and loved it. One of the greatest movies I have seen. I was full of tears by the end of the movie, but don’t make that stop you from seeing it. Will Smith was amazing and well cast along with his actual son Jayden. The theme was great and moral. I loved it and encourage you to see it to.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Emma Lee, age 14
Positive—I went to see this film with my Dad. Quite honestly, we both found the movie to be boring. Morally, there was not anything I found offensive, besides the profanity. The movie was rated PG-13 because of profanity, so it wasn’t surprising. Some parents may enjoy this film, but kids will probably get very bored. I was expecting some excitement, with Will Smith as the main character, but I found nothing exciting.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Emily, age 12
Positive—This movie is one of the best I have seen. My mom, sister, and brother all agree. I’m not one for tears when watching a movie, but this one I actually had a few throughout the movie. One of my favorite kinds of movies are ones based on true stories, which made me want to see this movie more. And I wasn’t disappointed! The acting was wonderful, especially by Will Smith and his son. There is some profanity, not much, but it’s there (what movie doesn’t now days?). There’s no nudity or sex. This movie is definitely one you should not miss, and is worth the money to see it in the theater, and to rent it when it comes out.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Elizabeth, age 15