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The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Better than advertised
The endlessly hyped, tear-jerking trailer for "The Pursuit of Happiness" doesn't even come close to capsuling this powerful film and inspirational story. From the short opening morning scene where Chris Gardner (Will Smith) simply informs his son Christopher (Jaden Smith) that it's time for him to get up to begin the day, the chemistry between the real life father and son is immensely felt and enjoyed. There was no question in the mind of this reviewer that, regardless of how well the actually film turns out, the acting was going to be pleasing enough to make this experience worthwhile. Indeed it was, and the film itself, telling one of the more heartwarming stories of the American dream that this reviewer has ever witnessed, was nothing short of inspiring.
Will Smith delivers the best performance of his career, pursuing Oscar gold just as relentlessly as his character pursued happiness. I have to admit, before actually seeing "Happiness" I was in the crowd of skeptics that perceived Smith's Academy Award case as nothing more than dying a few hairs white and growing a mustache. The role appeared to lack any complexity at first glance, and came across as pure Oscar-bait. Both ideas may still be true, but that hardly takes away from the pure greatness of Will's portrayal of Gardner. At this point, I'd venture to say that Will deserves to be crowned in February (possibly January as well...possibly) just as much as his main competitors, Whittaker and DiCaprio.
A surprisingly good aspect of the movie was the emergence of Jaden Smith. Every line he utters is believable and flows perfectly in the mix of often fast-paced scenes. When he's not talking, his facial expressions strongly convey the feelings the young Gardner must have been holding in during such dire times. Jaden also successfully adds quite a bit of comic relief in between the constant sobs that break out throughout the theater.
If you're looking for a heartwarming holiday movie that teaches hard-working American values to take the family to, you've found it. If you're just looking for a great movie, you've found it. Don't let the trailer fool you into thinking you've seen everything you need to about "The Pursuit of Happiness". In that regard, and only that regard, it fails.