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Pay it Forward

(2000) rated: PG-13

Director: Mimi Leder

Starring: Kevin spacey, Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt.

Synopsis: Mr. Simonet (Spacey) gives his new students an assignment: "Think of a plan to make the world a better place -- and put it into action!" One of his students, Trevor (Osment), takes this assignment to heart and comes up with Pay it Forward. It works like this: Trevor does big favors for 3 people, but instead of those people paying him back, they "pay it forward" to three other people. The tree grows exponentially... if you assume the best in people. So Trevor helps out a homeless guy, sets Mr. Simonet up with his mom (Hunt), and tries to defend a friend from bullies.

Review: This is a movie that is carried almost completely by its three principal actors, Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt. The "pay it forward" idea is also wonderful; it appeals to my naive optomistic nature, and in the end it works. Its how we get to the end that is iffy.

The director, Mimi Leder, does a fair job, if only because she gives the room for the stars to shine. The movie is set in Las Vegas, and Leder takes full advantage of the unseen side of the garrish Vegas: the clean, desolate residential areas which complement the film so well.

As previously mentioned, the acting is great; full of heartfelt emotion and brooding sensibility. Spacey does his usual good job, while Osment actually looks, sounds, and acts like a kid. Hunt pulls off the recovering alcoholic bit quite well.

I think its the specifics of the story that don't quite jibe with me. Take the subplot concerning Trevor's father, played by Jon Bon Jovi, and his return. His abrubt, two scene, descent from the humble recovering alcoholic into the steriotypical drunken father is just too tidy. And of course, theres the ending. Its almost a shameless play on the viewer's emotions, and it might ruin the movie for many people. I say "almost", because the end heightens the film's impact greatly. To me, the ending presented an interesting challenge, but most won't see it that way and might resent the sentimentality.

Still, its a worthwhile effort; even admirable. But the plot is too over the top, and the point is rammed home too hard. The film set its sights high, hits the target, but, sadly, not the bulls eye.

• Could the pay it forward scheme work?
• If someone did you a favor and asked you to pay it forward, what would you do?
• Does the ending of the film work? Is it challenging, or am I a moron?

Pay it Forward: Official Page

The Man Without a Face
Dead Poet's Society

The Store:
Pay it Forward (dvd)
Pay it Forward (vhs)
Pay it Forward (book)
Pay it Forward (soundtrack)

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