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Click above to purchase "Pay it Forward" at


Pay It Forward

review by Zach B.

Rated PG-13

Studio: Warner

Running Time: 123 minutes

Starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, Jay Mohr

Screenplay by Leslie Dixon
Based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Directed by Mimi Leder

Retail Price: $24.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Mimi Leder, HBO First Look Making-Of Featurette, Cast and Crew Filmographies, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Chapter Search (34 Chapters)

While I really wanted to see "Pay It Forward" in theaters, I kept missing it and well... it was going, going and gone. I was a pretty big fan of the book, which I enjoyed a lot. However, when I heard about the film, my interested peaked pretty high... until I heard that the screenplay was making a pretty big change... Kevin Spacey's character is caucasian and named Eugene Simonet, while in the book the teacher was an African-American by the name of . I was also turned off by the film from the negative reviews. At first "Oscar® buzz" was written all over, but then the reviews came pouring in bashing how manipulative the movie was. However, my chance to judge the film has finally arrived with the DVD version. How does it measure up in my eyes? Keep reading.

I'll start with the story, which is simple enough. The film begins with a reporter (Jay Mohr) who's car get trashed, and what seems like out of nowhere, a mysterious stranger gives him the keys to a brand new Jaguar. While Mohr is stunned, cautious and really has no idea to make of this generous gift, we flashback to four months earlier in Las Vegas where a middle school student by the name of Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) gets an interesting assignment from his new Social Studies teacher, Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey). The assignment: think of an idea to change the world. Trevor thinks of an idea: pay it forward. Do a good deed for three people, and have each of those people do the same. Basically, it keeps going and going with more and more. However, Eugene has a pretty painful past (as seen with his scars and later explained in the film) and Trevor's mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt) is a struggling single mom who works some jobs and is an alcoholic to a good extent. However, after Trevor brings in a junkie, Arlene and Eugene do end up crossing paths... and some pretty interesting and pretty predictible things happen from there.

While I really did enjoy the book, I have mixed feelings about the film. I just felt it lacked some much needed dramatic punch and development. It can be manipulative at times, and perhaps there are too many melodramatic moments for us to absorb. While some of us will laugh at those moments and think they are ridiculous, some of you (you know who you are) will tear up uncontrolably. The movie to me was well paced and pretty even, but in the end I found it a bit slow, kind of boring and it just played out like one, long inspirational scene. And I'm sure a lot of you are going to hate the pretty depressing ending... in the film it seems sort of out of place. With all of this, I was pretty disappointed in the end how the movie did turn out, considering who was involved in the project and how big of a fan I was of the book. Mimi Leder's direction and Ryan Hyde's adaption are decent at best. There was just a lot to the book and this seemed like a sure-fire adaption that would have been great, but it is flawed. I felt this film adapation missed something important in telling the story... something to make it what it is and unique, but I can't put my finger on what that is.

While I did have those gripes and disappointments, there's a lot to like about the film. I liked how some things were interconnected in the story. The film features a top-notch cast with some excellent performances. Haley Joel Osment perfectly captures the innocent, kind-hearted Trevor. He's proved before how good of an actor he is, and there's more proof in this film. He really stands out. Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey are excellent as usual, as two tortured souls with different pasts and pains who come together. They have some great, intense moments together. Jay Mohr also does a fine job as reporter Chris Chandler.

There is some nice cinematography and good editing, but what I really liked was Thomas Newman's great score. It may sound a bit like "American Beauty" but it really does fit well with the film... it's all pretty catchy.

Some of you are going to love "Pay It Forward", some of you are going to really despise it. Again, considering how much I enjoyed the book, this movie was disappointing to me considering the talent involved. Oh well... I guess this isn't one of the rare exceptions that the movie lives up to its original source material. Basically, if you like some sappy melodrama with good performances, you'll like this. Either way... I'd just sit down and read the book.

I really don't know what to say about this transfer, Warner once again delivers the goods. The film is in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and beside a nitpick or two as far as a piece of dirt, this transfer is reference. The image has a tremendous amount of clarity and depth to image, it really pops out of you. Colors are perfectly saturated and are really bold, while the background detail image is superb. Black level hits the mark perfectly too... so beside the piece of dirt here and there, you can't go wrong here.

"Pay It Forward" features English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, and are actually pretty impressive for a movie like this. There are some particularly good surrounds, such as the opening scene with the rain. Thomas Newman's excellent but familiar sounding score sounds really good through the channels. This movie is a lot of talk, so thankfully dialogue sounds really clear and nothing overpowers it. There is some nice, high fidelity as well. You won't be disappointed with this track at all. English and French subtitles are included.

While this was originally going to be a bare bones release, I'm glad Warner added some extra goodies. Still, the more in-depth extras... aren't that in-depth. More is better, but bare bones or not, your knowledge about the movie wouldn't really been improved so much either way... but there's still some decent things to obtain here... and maybe you'll get more out of it than I did.

The main supplement here is an Audio Commentary with Director Mimi Leder. There are some gaps throughout the track, but Leder's comments aren't that compelling and what she says is pretty obvious. While she offers some bits of info, it's nothing major or spectacular. It's a little boring, but if you liked the movie, you may want to listen to this track.

The HBO Making-Of Special is your typical featurette fair, with clips from the film, interviews with Spacey, Leder, Hunt, Mohr, Osment, book author Catherine Ryan Hyde and more. Plus there are some behind the scenes clip... it tries to go in-depth and preaches a little about the world, helping people etc. Nothing new, but if you liked the movie, you'll want to watch this. It lasts about fifteen minutes.

Rounding the features out are Cast and Crew Filmographies and the Theatrical Trailer in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and two channel sound.


Warner delivers a pretty good package for the film. There's some decent supplements, a good presentation and a good overall price. Still, I was pretty disappointed with the movie. You'll probably want to rent this one first before you buy it (unless you've already seen the movie and loved it). So go ahead... "Pay It Forward"

(3.5/5 - NOT included in final score)




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