Printer Friendly

PURSUING THE AMERICAN DREAM.

Byline: Glenn Whipp Film Critic

They don't make inspirational, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps movies about failures, so you know that Will Smith's hero in ``The Pursuit of Happyness'' (the misspelling is a plot point) is, like Mary Richards, going to make it after all.

Whether the journey is worth taking then is all in the details, and Gabriele Muccino's inspirational film gets enough of them right to make it worth a recommendation to anyone whose soul is nourished by Og Mandino's writing. As a portrait of noble striving, you could do a lot worse.

American dream

The movie, written by Steve Conrad (``The Weather Man''), is ``inspired'' by the story of Chris Gardner, a San Francisco husband and father who became homeless while simultaneously working as an intern at a stock brokerage firm. Set in 1981, early in Ronald Reagan's first term as president, ``Happyness'' is very much an ode to the American dream, faithfully buying into the transforming powers of can-do capitalism

The movie gets most of its narrative mileage out of the incongruity of Gardner's double life. By day, he's competing with fellow unpaid interns for a job that's a long shot at best. Then, in the late afternoon, he's hustling his 5-year-old son (played by Smith's own child, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) for a bed at the overcrowded homeless shelter.

``Happyness'' doesn't make much of an issue of Gardner's race -- I doubt the real-life Gardner would, either -- focusing more on how the burdens of poverty can restrict the pursuit of opportunity.

Gardner got himself into debt by buying dozens of more-or-less useless medical contraptions that became millstones to his family life and bank account. We root for him to sell them, even though we know nobody needs them.

American consumerism

Strangely then, a movie that celebrates the American dream also unintentionally comments on the emptiness of American consumerism. In that respect, more than ``The Holiday,'' ``The Pursuit of Happyness'' provides the perfect holiday movie-going experience.

Smith, known for his outsize ``Big Willie'' screen persona, wisely underplays Gardner, knowing that the material has enough drama and desperation on its own. It's a fine performance that gains momentum as we watch Smith's character endure blow after blow, the mounting anxieties seeming to etch a new wrinkle in the actor's brow after each scene. We worry less, knowing ``happyness'' is just around the corner.

Glenn Whipp, (818) 713-3672.

glenn.whipp@dailynews.com

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS - Two and one half stars

(PG-13: some language.)

Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith.

Director: Gabriele Muccino.

Running time: 1 hr. 56 mins.

Playing: In wide release.

In a nutshell: As a portrait of noble striving, you could do worse.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo: Will Smith and his real son, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, portray a down-on-their-luck father and son in ``The Pursuit of Happyness.''
COPYRIGHT 2006 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 15, 2006
Words:469
Previous Article:SECOND CHANCE FOR TWOS.
Next Article:LAKERS NOTEBOOK: ODOM KEEPING HIS SPIRITS UP.


Related Articles
The big comeback.
`TRUMAN SHOW' BARES INSULAR NATURE OF OUR CULTURE.
IMMIGRANTS' EYES ON PRIZE IN `AMERICA'.
POVERTY DECLINING IN L.A. CENSUS FIGURES SHOW RISE IN VALLEY, HOWEVER.
King's 'dream' still alive.
America vs. Europe.
How to Escape Life Time Security and Pursue Your Impossible Dream.
Which way America? America's legacy of freedom has meant untold wealth and prosperity for millions and made the American dream a reality. It's a...

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters