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Pay It Forward
review by Zach B.
Running Time: 123 minutes
Starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment,
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,
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
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
(3.5/5, NOT an average)