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‘Pursuit’ finding some 'Happyness'

Another film this blog’s been following is opening this weekend: Pursuit of Happyness, based on the life of Christopher Gardner (played by Will Smith), who went from being a homeless father with a young son (played by Smith’s son Jaden) to a successful Wall Street broker.

I’m an unabashed fan of Will Smith. Last night, I happened to catch him on The Letterman Show (I don’t usually stay up that late, but my flu-stricken daughter needed my attention) and was struck once again by how this man oozes authentic charm, genuineness, wit and real concern and care for people and issues. Hollywood needs more men like this.

In the mainstream, this film’s getting better reviews than Eragon (see below), running at 57% at Rotten Tomatoes, which gets its rating by compiling mainstream critic reviews. Sampling of the positive reviews at RT include:

Edward Douglas ( “Heartwarming at times, heartbreaking at others, you could do far worse this season than this touching tale.”

Stephen Hunter (Washington Post): The Pursuit of Happyness is the biography of a real guy named Christopher Garnder, whom Will Smith, charming and bright, embodies to the fingertips.”

Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly):The Pursuit of Happyness speaks eloquently to the anxieties of our own time, when staying afloat, let alone movin’ on up, has rarely been tougher.”
Samplings of the negative reviews are also compiled at RT:

Christy Lemire (AP): At its core The Pursuit of Happyness is a good story—one that’s literally rags to riches, and didn’t need the many tweaks and embellishments that Italian director Gabriele Muccino and writer Steven Conrad have added.”

Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal): The Pursuit of Happyness goes beyond tugging at our heartstrings. It plucks them, strokes them, strums them, plays them for all they’re worth. That’s both the strength and the weakness of this inspirational drama.”
You can find links to these and other reviews at RT.

As to Christian reviewers, they seem to like the film. At Christianity Today, Lisa Ann Crockrel (who gives the film three out of four stars) runs an interesting comparison between the film and Socrates’ The Choice of Hercules, concluding, “Both stories are less about the constitution of vice and virtue—and more about exploring the aims of and one's attitude towards life.”

At, Stephen McGarvey likes the film too, focusing on the father-son aspect of the film. “There are many reasons to love a good father/son movie,” writes McGarvey, and Pursuit of Happyness “not only gives us a strong portrayal of a loving father, but an uplifting lesson in perseverance and being happy even when life is rough. . . . With so many terrible fathers in the world, both in fiction and reality, it’s refreshing to see a hardworking, yet devoted father portrayed on the big screen.”

United Methodist Reporter reviewer Mary Jacobs also likes the film, calling it “a great gift for the holidays.” Jacobs notes that breaking stereotypes adds to the film’s authenticity and comments on the spirituality in the film:
Considerable screen time is devoted to a worship service that Gardner attends at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, led by the Rev. Cecil Williams (who plays himself). It's not a pivotal, born-again moment so much as a brief oasis of calm and hope in Gardner's long ordeal. For people of faith, this scene may rank among the most authentic film portrayals of practical spirituality in recent memory.
At the family-oriented Plugged In, Adam R. Holtz says:
Inspirational isn't a word I would normally choose to describe a great movie, as it conjures up connotations of something sappy or overly sentimental. Nevertheless, I think that's the word that best captures Will Smith's powerful portrayal of real-life father and pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps worker Chris Gardner.
And that's it for now.

(Images: Sony via


SingingOwl said…
I am a Will Smith fan too.
And it seems that movies based on real-life stories are almost always worth seeing. I hadn't even heard of this one, but I'll be going. :-)
carmen said…
i'm hoping to see it in the theater but we may have to wait until DVD release with our budget, heh.