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Pursuit of HappynessThe Pursuit of Happyness of DVD

Will Smith and his little boy star in this extremely depressing movie about a down and out man and his successful reach for life's brass ring.

How can his success be depressing? Read on.

Smith is Chris Gardner, a San Francisco salesman who saddled himself with a piece of medical diagnostic equipment that few want. Needless to say, business is bad and, since his living depends on unloading this stuff, his financial status is anything but good. His common law wife (Thandie Newton) supports them as best as she can, but they're behind in their payments and prospects aren't great. This also leads to conflict between Chris and his wife, and she ends up walking out on him.

But Chris is proud and dedicated and determined to not only stand on his own feet, but to keep custody of his son (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) as well.  And he discovers the world of stock brokering, first noticing that all the people who work there seem to be very happy.

Chris applies for, and is eventually accepted for, an unpaid intern position with a famous brokerage house – but there's another catch besides the "unpaid" aspect: only one of the 20 competitors will be offered a job at the end of the period; the rest will be back to square one. So he's forced to work a brutal and competitive regimen during the day to learn his chosen new trade, then work after hours trying to flog his medical equipment to make ends meet.

It doesn't go well; he loses his home, then he loses his interim home, and eventually is forced to live in homeless shelters (or whevever he can find)  – all while maintaining the illusion at the brokerage that he has a normal home life. It's tough, but he never gives up.

We know he'll be the person chosen at the end, of course, otherwise why would there be a movie, but it takes far, far too long to happen and then we never see his success other than a title card at the end.

And this was our big problem with the film. It's depressing where it should be uplifting. While it's important for us to see Chris' trials and tribulations, that's all we get to see because once his ship comes in they roll the credits! Where's the "happyness" stuff?

Oh well.

Smith is a good actor and once again here he gives a fine performance. His son also does a first rate job; you can't help but feel sorry for this innocent kid dragged through the bottom of life's barrel through no fault of his own.

The DVD has been released in both anamorphic widescreen and Pan&Scan versions, under separate cover unfortunately. We were saddled with the Pan&Scan version, which is a good way to rub us the wrong way. But the picture quality, as far as we could tell with having the edges sliced off, looks fine, sharp and colorful.

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and it's also very good.

Extras include a commentary by director Gabriele Muccino, a "making of" feature ("An Italian Take on the American Dream"), "Father and Son: On screen and Off", and a conversation with the real Chris Gardner. There's also a bit on the Rubik's cube that plays a central role in the plot and the song "I Can."

The Pursuit of Happyness, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
117 min. anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible)/Pan&Scan (Sold separately), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Will Smith, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, Thandie Newton
Produced by Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch, James Lassiter, Will Smith
Written by Steven Conrad, directed by Gabriele Muccino


Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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