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The Pursuit of Happyness - DVD Review


Will Smith has star power. Not just the kind of star power that rewards with fancy cars and flashy belongings. We know he has that. But rather, the kind of star power that wins hearts and moves emotions. The kind that carries entire movies. His latest, The Pursuit of Happyness, is clearly a Will Smith branded vehicle with his own fingerprints all over it it even co-stars his young son, Jaden Smith. But non-fans or even those unfamiliar with his work will have no problem finding inspiration and a true heartfelt appreciation for what he brings to the movie. It's a film about overcoming obstacles and about being a good parent. A love story about a father and son walking through this thing we call life together.

Smith portrays the real-life Chris Gardner, a bright but undereducated salesman struggling to support his wife, Linda (Thandie Newton) and 5-year old son Christopher (Jaden Smith), in San Francisco in the early '80s. After sinking his life savings into an unsuccessful sales scheme, Gardner finds himself wifeless and homeless with nothing more than a few bucks, custody of his son and a bunch of unsold medical devices. But rather than give up, Gardner pursues a nonpaying stockbroker internship with hopes that it might lead to a better life.

Though we hope the story will eventually end in positive territory on the emotional meter, it certainly won't come before we've been taken to unimaginable depths that seem a bit relentless and overstated. But then again, I've never had to face homelessness, so I'm not certain that a bed of toilet paper on the floor of a rail station bathroom is overkill.

Gardner seems to be a bad luck magnet as he's forced to endure a relentless barrage of misfortune that ranges from the IRS, to unsympathetic landlords, to overzealous meter maids, to petty thieves on the street. Just as we think things will surely begin to get better, we're taken to even lower lows. I would have liked for the emotional bottom to have come a bit closer to the film's half-way point, but as it is, we're through more than three-quarters of the film's runtime before the desperation and hopelessness finally let up. Still Gardner trudges forward.

Countless films have taken on similar subject matter and most are not above pouring on the sentiment and conservative family values in thick and gooey layers. But Pursuit of Happyness is somewhat unique and a bit easier to swallow because we truly buy into the chemistry generated by Smith and his real-life son. Their love seems real and tangible. Gardner is a responsible father who cares deeply for his son and that love transcends the screen, hitting us old softies smack-dab in the middle of the heart. The film's message of the value of hard work never comes off as preachy or self-righteous.

You'll expend a lot of emotional energy watching The Pursuit of Happyness. But I don't ruin anything by telling you that there is a satisfying payoff for the time you spend with the film, even if it comes a tad late. Director Gabriele Muccino and writer Steve Conrad clearly have some complicated things to say about the American way of life and the people who are sometimes left in the dust in the pursuit of success. But their film is really nothing more than a loving testimonial to the working stiffs of the world, as well as a tip of the hat to responsible fathers who love their children. The story is not necessarily the star of the show, and for that matter, neither is the real-life Gardner. After all, he just did what millions of Americans do on a daily basis. The success of the entire production rests squarely on the shoulders of Will Smith whose dramatic acting abilities haven't been called upon to such a degree since his brilliant turn in Ali.


DVD

DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Audio Commentary - With director Gabriele Muccino.
* Featurettes:
o Making Pursuit: An Italian Take on the American Dream
o Father and Son: On Screen and Off (7:29)
o The Man Behind the Movie: A Conversation with Chris Gardner (13:02)
o Inside the Rubik's Cube (6:41)
* Previews:
o for Spider-Man 3; Surf's Up; Casino Royale; Stranger Than Fiction; Rocky Balboa; Stomp the Yard; Spider-Man 2.1, The Natural: Director's Cut; Across the Universe; Hitch; The Holiday; and Catch and Release.
* Music Videos - I Can by Bebe Winans and Dave Koz.

Number of discs: - 2- Keepcase PackagingScreen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Audio Commentary - With director Gabriele Muccino.
* Featurettes:
o Making Pursuit: An Italian Take on the American Dream
o Father and Son: On Screen and Off (7:29)
o The Man Behind the Movie: A Conversation with Chris Gardner (13:02)
o Inside the Rubik's Cube (6:41)
* Previews:
o for Spider-Man 3; Surf's Up; Casino Royale; Stranger Than Fiction; Rocky Balboa; Stomp the Yard; Spider-Man 2.1, The Natural: Director's Cut; Across the Universe; Hitch; The Holiday; and Catch and Release.
* Music Videos - I Can by Bebe Winans and Dave Koz.

Number of discs: - 2- Keepcase Packaging

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