2006 - United States - 117 minutes
Writer - Steve Conrad
Director - Gabriele Muccino
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.4/10 - Link to IMDB
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars

I have a running debate with friends and family as to whether it is better to watch a film in the theater or at home. I almost never go to movies in theaters because they cost a small fortune, and I am usually beset by some rude person or persons who spoil my enjoyment of the film.

The Pursuit of Happyness is another positive to my side of the discussion because of the extra features available on the DVD.

The story is of the real Chris Gardner who overcame great obstacles in order to become a successful multi-millionaire. All the while following through with his pledge to be a good father - not absent as was his own. I have seen Chris Gardner in a number of interviews on television. He is a dynamic personality who has achieved phenomenal accomplishments. Therefore, this unbelievable story is really true.

Will Smith was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Chris Gardner, and he certainly deserves the acknowledgement. But, in my mind, he deserves even more acknowledgement for giving his star power for this project that would have probably been overlooked by the Hollywood powers-that-be.

The first thing that Smith did - as co-producer of the film - was to hand pick Italian director Gabriele Muccino.  Smith had seen two of his films and was entranced by Muccino's ability to project real human feelings to the screen. He was certainly right because the director shows us real people and real emotions in every character.

I read the thoughts of one reviewer who thought that this film suffered from the fact that it had a big budget - because of Will Smith's star power - and would have been better as a low-budget independent film. He makes the statement that the homeless extras in the film look too slick to really be homeless. The irony is that the homeless characters in the film were really homeless people hired to perform in the film. He would have done well to investigate the actual production of the film.

Because of the big budget, the viewer is treated to the real locations in the life of Chris Gardner. This is something that could not have been accomplished in a film with a lower budget.

In the DVD extras, the director states - this was for me, an enlightening theory. He says that the American Dream is not fully understood by citizens of the United States, therefore he, as an Italian, can better express the full ramifications of what the American Dream actually is. In other words, the American Dream is a reality and it is available for anyone who seeks its promise. Considering the state of our country today, those are certainly encouraging words.

Here, I hark back to my opening paragraphs. This is an excellent film made even better by watching it at home and enjoying the extra features available on the DVD.

Neil Turner
April 2, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness