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Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness

Posted on December 14, 2006 by

Want to know something scary? The “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” is nearly 40 years old. That means a couple things for Will Smith: a) more mature roles, and b) an established family life. Those two things collide in his latest film, “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

The movie tells the real-life story of Chris Gardner (played by Smith), a father struggling to support his family as a salesman. When his partner and the mother of his son leaves, Gardner soon finds himself evicted from his apartment and homeless while still having to care for the young boy. With skills beyond his menial job, Gardner looks to improve the lives of himself and his son by competing for an internship at a big-time stock brokerage firm.

But in apapting Gardner’s story for the big screen, a number of changes were made. For instance, in real life, Gardner’s son was an infant at the time. For the film, however, they magically transformed him into a five-year-old boy, and stuck Smith’s real-life son, Jaden, into the role.

While the change still works (aside from Jaden’s limited abilities as an actor at such a young age), I can’t help but feel that the actual story — a single, homeless father struggling to improve his condition by changing careers while also caring for a newborn — would be more compelling.

Nevertheless, the film is successful in its aim of capturing Gardner’s plight, and the difficulties of his life at the time. The story is touching, with Smith displaying his real-life caring for Jaden admirably. It’s absolutely predictable, though, and suffers from overdramatization at times.

The story behind “Pursuit” is defintiely astonishing, but the adaptation turns it into a stock Hollywood rags-to-riches film. Seeing it wouldn’t necessarily be a waste of time, but it certainly can be skipped. As for Smith, his next project has him playing the last man alive, surrounded by a world of vampires. To me, that sounds like a welcome return to form.

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