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Pay It Forward More at IMDbPro »

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133 out of 167 people found the following review useful:

What movies are supposed to be

Author: Greg-195 from Charlotte, NC
8 October 2000

Pay It Forward is a prime example of what films are supposed to do: make you laugh a little, cry a lot, and profoundly affect you in a way that keeps you thinking about the movie for weeks afterwards. I saw it at a special preview screening and was blown away. My friends and I sat through the entire credits because we were so taken by what we had seen. Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and the phenomonal Haley Joel Osment once again give performances worthy of Oscars. I only hope there isn't some "retaliation" of sorts because of their previous wins and nominations because they deserve it again this year. But the big winner here is director Mimi Leder who has moved from action films into great cinema. She demonstrates the fine tuned skills she showed while directing ER. As I sat there, one eye kept a close watch of the story while the other marveled at the beautiful direction of every scene. They have my vote for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, and Screenplay. Awe-inspiring!!!!

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127 out of 157 people found the following review useful:


Author: Ferenc Keresztes ( from Hungary
16 May 2005

In our world helping other people is perhaps the most important we can do. Children are the ones who often teach us how to behave in certain unpleasant circumstances. It is not only a moving story but everybody who sees this film stops for a moment or more and think over the meaning of life. One of the best American films I have ever seen with lots of good actors. Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt are wonderful. In secondary schools it should be a compulsory part of education. I am a teacher and when I want to talk about this topic I always choose this film and students find it a very good example, too. It has not got a happy ending like it often happens in life. It is not a stupid story, it gives us lots of extras. When I first watched it, at the end of the film I was full of emotions and just could not sleep for a while. To put it into a nutshell: Try it and pay attention to Pay it forward.

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71 out of 80 people found the following review useful:

Excellent in Parts, All Right As a Whole.

Author: tfrizzell from United States
5 April 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A deceptively dark film that seems light-hearted and somewhat fun on first glance, but just keeps on twisting as it progresses. A badly burned teacher (Kevin Spacey) wants his grade school class to come up with a project to make a difference in the world. Thus young Haley Joel Osment comes up with an idea to help three people in trouble and then have each of them do the same for three others in order to keep paying it forward. Osment wants a father and soon hopes that Spacey will fall in love with his mother (Helen Hunt). He also helps a homeless man (James Caviezel) who just cannot seem to say no to narcotics. For a while it appears that everything might actually work out, but Spacey's sad life and the return of abusive father Jon Bon Jovi (in a nice little supporting turn) just make Osment that much more tortured emotionally. The love that grows between Hunt and Spacey appears it will save the day, but sometimes nothing is the way it seems to be in life. I did enjoy "Pay It Forward" very much. I liked the elements of the production really more than I liked the entire movie as a whole. There are some really wonderful ideas here and in all honestly there are really two or three movies within "Pay It Forward". All the performers are right on. Osment is the greatest child actor to ever live, hands down. Spacey is always a guaranteed performance and Hunt has grown as an actress in just the last several years. I was disappointed that Caviezel's (who struck gold in "The Thin Red Line") did not have a little more time here. His character is quietly deep and complicated beneath the surface. The tone hurts "Pay It Forward". I really expected a somewhat light-hearted film at the start after some situations that seem to be going for comedy. Some things just do match up with other parts of the movie. With all that said, I still think that "Pay It Forward" is a fine effort that stands a little taller than others might believe. 4 stars out of 5.

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75 out of 94 people found the following review useful:

Despite the shortcomings - well played and at times inspiring

Author: graham clarke (
3 May 2004

I remember leaving the cinema, feeling very much let down by the end of "Pay it Forward". Watching it recently on television I find myself far more forgiving since it's a movie with a sincere and important message, expressed with conviction. The quasi-religious ending probably will appeal to many, but from an artistic viewpoint, it seems unnecessary and not entirely suited to the tone of the film up to that point.

Kevin Spacey is effective as the suppressed, sensitive teacher, while Helen Hunt is terrific, despite the role being far too close for comfort with her "As Good As It Gets" character. But it's Hailey Joel Osment's wonderful portrayal that gives "Pay It Forward" much of its power. He simply is perfect for the part. (Good to see Angie Dickenson, braving it in the role of a homeless alcoholic).

At its best, this is a film which may just do the impossible: inspiring one to good deeds, without expectation of reward or remuneration. That alone is a substantial achievement.

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85 out of 118 people found the following review useful:

Not for the stonehearted.

Author: Al Rogerson ( from Manchester, England
9 February 2002

Pay It Forward is a movie that is aimed at one particular audience. The kind of audience that expects to have their life changed as the minutes tick by.

And as a film that provides profound, poignant and tear-jerking moments, Pay It Forward will be perfect for this manner of audience. Unfortunately, harder, more expecting movie-goers will probably dismiss this movie as an oversentimental and perhaps unrealistic film.

The film is centred around Trevor (Hayley Joel-Osment). An 11 year old boy, living alone with his dysfunctional, on-off alcoholic mother Arlene (Helen Hunt). One day Trevor is set a homework assignment by his new Social Studies teacher, the mysterious, slightly disfigured Eugene (Kevin Spacey). Eugene sets the class a difficult task; to think of an idea that will change the world and put it into action. Et voila!! Pay It Forward is born.

Trevor is played with an endearing maturity and at times, unstable frustration by uber kid actor Osment. As an aspiring actor, I worry that an 11 year old boy can grab hold of such difficult roles and make them his, while I still strive to gain my Equity card!! What Osment promised in The Sixth Sense, he shows again here with a more difficult and emotionally charged role. Trevor is a boy not altogether happy with his life. He is lacking in a father figure, his Mother struggles to have any impact on him as she juggles two jobs to make ends meet, which leaves Trevor with nothing but his own intuition to drag him through life. For a child that can only be extatic and contented with HIS life, Osment does well to project such a fragile character on screen.

Eugene is a character made for Kevin Spacey (although all his roles seem perfect for him). Intelligent, compassionate, slightly bitter and at times unpredictable, Eugene is a man that we, as an audience cannot help but engage with. The dialogue written for Spacey is much better than other characters in the film, and he puts it to good use. Spacey is at his best when doing two things; calmly and charismatically attracting attention to himself (Ordinary Decent Criminal, Midnight In The Garden Of...), and when he bubbles just below the surface, inviting audiences in so that he can devastate you with a single revelation (Seven, Usual Suspects, Swimming With Sharks). And his revelation in this film (he relives how he came to get his horrific scars), is so vivid, so intricately and harrowingly retold that you cannot help but feel a tear well up in your eye.

Helen Hunt is fantastic as Arlene. Managing to achieve a look that bizarrely mixes trailer trash, run down alcoholic with vulnerable cuteness. She doesn't get the pick of the dialogue however, and the role aswell as the whole film would have been a whole lot worse off had Hunt not been on top form. You don't want her to be your Mother, but you really want to see her happy and for her to do a good job at being Trevors.

The film falls short in little details. Supporting characters do little to affect the story (Jay Mohr as an almost non-speaking narrator??) and the whole thing feels flat if Spacey is off screen too long. Good actors like Jim Caviezel go almost unnoticed and you can't help but feel that a few more juicy characters would help the story become a little more...cohesive.

The ending is a reinforcement of the atmosphere of the whole film. It is a sequence that heightens our emotion and should set the tears rolling.

In short, see this film for three things; Haley Joel-Osment, Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. All three are fantastic, and it's obvious to see why so much Oscar gossip was being spread.

If you like heart warming films with a little bit of edge, then watch on. If you're expecting an original, exciting, twisty or philosophical it anyway, at least the three leads are good.

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55 out of 69 people found the following review useful:

Life is pain

Author: Dan Grant ( from Toronto, Ontario
12 November 2000

Life is full of inconsistencies, and it is not without a sense of irony. There are people that have tried to make a difference in life and some of them have paid for it with their lives. Some that come to mind are Martin Luther King Jr, JFK, Gandhi and Terry Fox. It's not easy to change the world. It takes a lot of hard work and determination. And it doesn't happen overnight. But then you see a film like this and you begin to question that rationale. What if a concept like this really was implemented? What if every single person that had a favour bestowed upon them was asked to pay it forward? Is it possible that a Utopian world could be achieved? I doubt it, but it certainly would go a long way to making this condemned world a better place to live.

I don't think this is one of the best movies that I have ever seen. I don't think it is even the best film that I will see this year (although it will make my top ten ) but the idea behind it is what has me intrigued. Believe me when I tell you this. I don't think I have ever been as emotionally galvanized as I was in this film. There is a raw power, a truth that rings clear in Pay It Forward and if there was one film that I would want people to see this year, it would be this film. It is entertaining, it is superbly acted, and it the one true film, the one true idea that really could help make a positive and tangible difference in our society and our world.

In some circles this film has been criticized for laying on the fluff. It is too much like a soap opera. And that is so far from the truth. Let's recount the issues at hand and examine them. Kevin Spacey plays a burn victim because of child abuse. Helen Hunt plays a single mom that is having a hard time recovering from alcoholism and has a bad case of "can't get her ex-husband" out of her life and her bed. Haley Joel Osment plays a wise beyond his years son that had to grow up precociously because of his mother that suffers from the above. Every character in this film, including the bit players suffers from real problems. If people have a hard time understanding this then just go to an average suburban classroom in North America and arbitrarily pick out ten kids. Chances are you will find cases of alcoholism, child abuse, divorce and a plethora of issues that are not conducive to a healthy environment for a child. So this film is just mirroring life. That's all.

The performances by the three leads is nothing short of brilliant. Not as much can be said for the rest of the cast, but Spacey, Osment and Hunt all could be nominated this year when March comes. All three bring compassion and depth to the three scarred people that they portray. But especially intriguing is Osment. He doesn't need to say anything in order for you to understand him. It's a look, a twitch, a smile, a shiver. Anything he does helps us understand who he is and why he is that way. Osment is one true gifted actor and I really don't think he is going to fade away in the years to come like so many other child prodigies. This is the real deal. By following up Sixth Sense with a performance this real solidifies him as a true thespian.

If you have not seen this film for whatever reason, and its box office suggests most haven't, then do yourself a favour and take a chance on it. Not only will it do you good, it really might help change you in some ways. And as Osment says in the film, maybe we may all see in some way that, " the world isn't really s**t."

9 out of 10 ( and bring lots of tissues )

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34 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

Broke my heart

Author: Kristine ( from Chicago, Illinois
15 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In 2001 after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and the plane crash in Pennsylvania, my class and I talked about it and what was disturbing to us. I mentioned how everyone thinks it's impossible to make a better world, but is it? I told them that if one person can do something wonderful for another person, that it could pass on like a domino reaction. Everyone loved my speech and the teacher even said that we could all do one nice thing, so for that day after class we had to do something nice, hoping it would cause a reaction. Didn't happen.

I recently watched Pay It Forward, watching it broke my heart because I felt for Haley Jole Osmond's character, hoping your idea would work and it didn't. Just wanting to make something better and you know it's so hard but you just have to try. This is a terrific movie that deserves more praise and I am hurt by a rating of 6.7. I think this movie is one of the best movies of 2000 if not the best. We could all learn from this film.


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39 out of 52 people found the following review useful:

A very moving movie

Author: EternianNews from United States
29 December 2004

This is one of the most moving movies that I have seen in years. The performances are excellent by all the cast members and the emotional tie you develop with the characters is so amazing that you start to feel what they are feeling and go through their good and bad times. This movie is inspiring and heart driven. I really enjoyed this movie because of the well written story and smoothly moving plot of this movie. The movie does not leave you confused as to what is going on or why. That's why I gave this movie a 10, because it is excellent. The odd thing is about movies, the ones that aren't really that good get the awards, yet the really good ones never get one. I have really never understood that. This movie should have been given an award.

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24 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

The ending reflects how cruel life really is

Author: mjw2305 from England
28 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) is a boy troubled by the events in his life. With a violent and Alcoholic father, who has left the scene; and his struggling Alcoholic Mother (Helen Hunt), who is trying to make ends meet, Trevor feels alone and is fearful of the future.

Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) is his new teacher, who has a rare quality of caring for his students. He sets an assignment for his class, to come up with an idea of how to improve the world we live in. Intended purely to may them think, Eugene never expected any results, but Trevor has a revelation, a notion that that people are in essence good and he could use this quality to better the world. And so Pay It Forward is born, Trevor will do three favours for others and in return they must do three favours for others and so on.

With a great leading cast and a good support from Jon Bon Jovi, Jim Caviezel and Angie Dickenson, the movie follows the failures and triumphs of Trevors idea and the life changing effect on both the world around him and on those close to him.

A Journey of emotion and discovery, this tearjerker instills belief that we can all do some good in the world, with a little effort and commitment.

A Warning for new viewers, the end is quite simply heartbreaking, it is incredibly sad, yet it does reflect how cruel life can be, and in my opinion it was brave to use such a shocking ending, that leaves you feeling down while at the same time adding an edge to the Film.

Overall it was a brilliant film, although it clearly will disappoint those people who want a happy ending, but for me the ending was perfect.


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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Just the Sort of Treacle I Wrote When I Was Eleven

Author: XianPhoenix ( from Atlanta GA
7 August 2001

This was not a bad film; in fact, it was fairly well done, for what it was. Unfortunately, what it was was emotionally manipulative. Child abuse survivors, cute kids, recovering alcoholic mom working two jobs, this movie had it all. Above all, the director's vision was muddled. "Life is sh*t," says Trevor (Osment); by the end of the film, we can see that life is not sh*t after all. Or is it? The dramatic twist at the end (I won't spoil it for you) seemed to revoke the entire message of the movie. It had no apparent purpose, other than to lead up to the buy-the-world-a-coke, faux-heartwarming finale. The movie was not a total wash, however, as the genuinely solid performances from everyone involved lifted it above the sappy little mess it could have been. Osment is a gifted actor who manages to be a scared, vulnerable kid, without resorting to overt cuteness; he has a wary toughness which makes his performances very believable. Although I am admittedly ambiguous about Helen Hunt, she did turn in a very strong, thoughtful performance in a role that could easily have been one-sided or overplayed. Final analyss: If you like sentimentality, "Pay it Forward" is worth the effort, but it falls far short of a classic.

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