More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.84%
Worth A Look26.49%
Average: 13.25%
Pretty Bad26.49%
Total Crap: 9.93%

9 reviews, 97 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Everybody Knows by Jay Seaver

Alita: Battle Angel by Peter Sobczynski

Integrity by Jay Seaver

Happy Death Day 2U by Peter Sobczynski

Arctic by Jay Seaver

Punk Samurai Slash Down by Jay Seaver

Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot, The by Rob Gonsalves

High Flying Bird by Peter Sobczynski

Tito and the Birds by Peter Sobczynski

Lego Movie 2, The by Peter Sobczynski

subscribe to this feed

Pay It Forward
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Greg Muskewitz

"Good concept, but loses steam with switch of ideas"
3 stars

"Pay It Forward" is a prime example of having your strings pulled and thinking you liked that feeling until much later when the effect wears off. (For more of the same, see "Music of the Heart.") However, the biggest difference with this, is that the effects don't last that long.

The fanciful Utopian vision, courtesy of the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde (screenplay by Leslie Dixon) starts off when seventh grade social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) gives his annual assignment for his students to create a solution to a problem in the world --and put it into action.

Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) is one of those students, and the only one to take the assignment seriously enough to try and solve something. He comes up with the concept of paying it forward ("#1: it has to be something that really helps people; #2: something they can't do themselves; #3: I do it for them, they do it for three other people."), the reverse of payback. Clever concept. Idealistic concept. But you're shortchanging yourself (in reality) and being naďve if you think it would really work. Trevor gets it into motion, but then the sideswiping plot replaces his trials with the (selfish) hope that he can get his burned teacher with his alcoholic mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt). The screenplay is so manipulating that I seem too cynical by saying it's a selfish act, but there are many more important issues the movie could have tried to divulge into. Back to the plot: that way, if his mother and Simonet are together, that will give reason for his nomadic, real father (Jon Bon Jovi) to keep away --for good.

Naturally highly touted for its Oscar-winning and nominated cast, they are all very good. (Though one is at odds to tell you the point of Kathleen Wilhoite's role.) Osment, as he was in "The Sixth Sense," is calm and collected. He's too young too be too critical on, because as it is, he's only just begun, but, Osment is able to give a better show than many that are three times his age. Hunt looks like a trainwreck, but just because she takes an unflattering role doesn't mean she should instantly be lauded. If you want to see unflattering at it's best (or maybe worst), and without the "Oscar-gimme" smacked and tattooed on its forehead, see Ellen Burstyn and the rest of the cast of "Requiem for a Dream." Spacey does well, but it's a manipulated performance --sympathy for the wronged ("Words are all I have"). Bon Jovi is no good at all. Plastic. Just a face with a (big) name here.

What I really wish is that the story would have stayed focused on the actual action of "paying it forward." The whole movie could have been a lot more interesting and inspirational if we could have followed the developments (instead of just a TV report) of where this was going. The fusing of Simonet and Arlene negated the actions of what had begun to occur for the alternative love story. It just seems wasted.

I almost resent the giant, Hollywood-all-star cast, because if the material was as strong as they say, lesser actors would have proved it, plus we would have been entertained by those unproven instead of those who are too proven.

Director Mimi Leder has proved with her two prior features ("The Peacemaker" and "Deep Impact") that she prefers human emotion and character above action, and sometimes, story. I really liked "Deep Impact" because it didn't seem to exploit emotion and string-pulling, whereas this does. But regardless, you still have the ability to get into "Pay It Forward." It's a temporary, contact high. I would have liked to enjoy it more, but the movie just gave the unerring sense that it wanted to take advantage of your emotions.

Leder, a former cinematographer, knows how to have Oliver Stapleton ("The High-Lo Country," "The Cider House Rules") effectively and impressively employ it here.

If you can't see the ending coming, the giant red-flashing sign, the so totally Dystopian ending contradictory to everything else (the biggest string-puller of all), you're blind.

Final Verdict: B.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 11/14/00 11:11:36
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell not bad has a nice message 4 stars
12/05/10 Steffy Don't care what everyone says, i loved everything! the movie had a really good message! 5 stars
8/12/09 the dork knight Remember kids, good people get shivved! Way to ruin your message, movie. 3 stars
2/06/09 bob horrible ending and the movie kinda dragged on and took the spotlight off the whole pay it 3 stars
10/27/08 Samantha Pruitt so freaking sad, the acting is really great! always makes me cry. 5 stars
10/14/08 Shaun Wallner This movie delivers a wonderful message. 5 stars
7/30/08 the dork knight Preachy, sugar-coated crap with a decent performance by Spacey (his last, btw) 3 stars
3/04/08 Pamela White Awesome tale of a child's courage 5 stars
5/17/07 I'm Not Ok I Sweear This movie is a sad one but i still love it!! 5 stars
3/14/07 Brittany good movie very dramatic ending that kind of ruined the movie but i still love it a lot 5 stars
2/25/07 pOisOned heArT has a greay message in it AwEsOmE 5 stars
2/23/07 Weblynx sad, and i have always remembered that way of thinking since watching it 5 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday I loved it! Until the end, that is. The end really killed the movie for me. 2 stars
10/18/06 Dave M Awful Review. I loved it. It is sappy though! 5 stars
9/24/06 Dewi K. Utama The ending shows hope that community also has will to better the world that Trevor had 5 stars
6/12/06 Levi A Good Plot and good acting but a VERY sad ending 5 stars
5/30/06 bobenhiemer not the best of movies 2 stars
4/04/06 Amanda Hunselman I strongly advise people to take this movie seriously 4 stars
12/18/05 Chris Karr One great movie! Almost all the actors deserved Oscars as well as the end song! 5 stars
12/10/05 Michael Very sharp beginning, then it collapse on its own lack of morality. 4 stars
9/22/05 R.W. Welch Intriguing at the start, but gets pretty sudsy. 3 stars
9/19/05 Jacklyn Jade L. Lao nice,interesting 5 stars
8/31/05 Captain Craig Great concept. NO lickable characters..except maybe the kid.Bad screenplay and direction. 2 stars
8/17/05 ES Spacey is a wuss, his character actually had a terriblly done scene to make him look tough 1 stars
7/17/05 christie kind of sappy but greatacting 4 stars
5/28/05 Aneta To jest najbardziej wzruszający film jaki kiedykolwiek widziałam 5 stars
3/31/05 Nick Boyd Great acting and premise marred by a bad endingI 4 stars
3/22/05 Naka Nope. Good messege, but it ain't enough. 1 stars
3/14/05 Brendan excellent 5 stars
3/08/05 Jo Deeply touched, don't care what others say! :P 5 stars
12/01/04 Annie The movie really moved me 5 stars
9/10/04 John Aster Habig a tear fest and a reinforcer of man's good side 5 stars
5/24/04 Jorge Fernandito Reyvaldo G A good film,but the ending was fucking crazy and very retarded 3 stars
5/18/04 C Merryweather Powerful for my students - a thought provoker! 5 stars
4/21/04 Lim Wei Hong A very touching and inspirational movie, despite having a sad ending. 4 stars
3/09/04 Jaco Visser A very touching and morally correct film! Inspiring past words. 5 stars
2/23/04 hi ok 4 stars
12/24/03 Snickerdoodle Kind of sappy and the ending really sucks. 2 stars
10/24/03 Kae Very emotional, but good, HJO is a very talented child! 5 stars
9/22/03 John Bale Somewhat sanitised modern fable well enough acted out to hold interest. 4 stars
9/21/03 Sarah This fi;m moved me in a way no other has 5 stars
9/08/03 Kyle Spacey and Hunt are both great! Didn't like the way it ended though. 4 stars
8/17/03 Lorraine I love this film - it makes me believe I should be a better person 5 stars
8/13/03 It's just me Makes you think...Haley has done it again! 5 stars
8/08/03 Kristan Be patient. Stick with it. Movie like life. It's a gift. 5 stars
8/05/03 Jin way too much emotional turmoil here. intriguing though. 3 stars
7/23/03 natasha_theobald sours my stomach just to think about it 2 stars
6/11/03 BlackTerror surprisingly 5 stars
6/05/03 Demydenko Stanislav Excellent 5 stars
4/09/03 Matt Thiel The ending says "If you help people, you will die." HUH? 3 stars
4/01/03 Jack Sommersby More tolerable than expected. 3 stars
3/29/03 bOmbsz16 its okay; quite boring though... the end is weak, who immediately dies from a stab? 3 stars
1/16/03 Joe A Total Sap & Crap Fest with a realy bad "Twist" Ending 1 stars
10/29/02 Brittney Williams I loved it!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/07/02 TheOthersFan "I see dead people I see nice people you're my mummy" 2 stars
7/27/02 karen goldstein i liked it just for the love story line - rest of the stuff was crap esp. the ending 3 stars
7/24/02 TheChronic sweet movie, the subject matter is definitely worth while 4 stars
6/30/02 Jim OMG what was up with that ending? Helen Hunt is a hottie though. 4 stars
6/22/02 Bart Horrid ending. Ruined the film for me. 2 stars
6/07/02 stud A NICE FAMILY FILM 5 stars
2/19/02 Shotglasskid I usually don't go for the heavy drama's but I thought the performances & movie were great. 5 stars
2/16/02 Butterbean Hunt plays the blandest alcoholic single mother on film. Flick is good, Hunt was blahhh. 4 stars
2/02/02 Tzila Seewald It is so good it's make me cry! It's teach me to be good other people 5 stars
1/14/02 Flick Chick very disappointing 2 stars
1/11/02 max zhang sappy but simple; good for non-English speaking viewers with no concept of the real America 3 stars
1/08/02 sean more further spiritual thing may be better 4 stars
1/06/02 Matt Utt This movie fucking sucks ass. I would rather watch four guys butt-fuck each other 1 stars
12/04/01 Bada Bing Crosby Can't believe Spacey & Hunt got to me; I HATE THEM but not in this almost-great flick 4 stars
10/02/01 Andrew Carden Pretty Disappointing, Bad Acting. 2 stars
6/27/01 Artist Freak Flawed bu enjoyable, good performances, movies like this are too rare. End music sucked. 4 stars
6/22/01 brentley Good plot idea, but the movie could've been better. Ending sucked. 3 stars
6/09/01 Turtle This movie had a couple of continuity mix-ups, but other than that, it was great. 4 stars
5/30/01 Thatguy I see lame people.... they're talking about morals, and righteousness... I'm puking... 1 stars
5/30/01 Monday Morning OK up to the ending -- so heavy handed it ruins the whole thing. 2 stars
5/10/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) A jambalaya of juggernauts in a film that's essentially a jinx. 2 stars
2/28/01 Anthony The movie has a message for people with a soul. The book is even better. 4 stars
2/18/01 Tom Beatty Made me think, but too saccharine 4 stars
2/04/01 Diego Romero You know Haley´s career is already dead right? 1 stars
2/01/01 Matthew Bartley Was I supposed to laugh when he gets stabbed and dies? 2 stars
1/22/01 Peter Taylor Don't be so cynical - its a good film, and a good ideal 5 stars
12/19/00 Tim Spacey,Hunt and Osment make this a good movie that might have sucked with other actors 4 stars
12/02/00 Angela Murtagh It's about time we had agood movie these days-I would see it again-wear waterproof mascarar 5 stars
11/29/00 William Bell Terrible in every imaginable way. 1 stars
11/11/00 spork-girl as sappy goes, this movie ruled. no misrepresentation, no dissapointment 5 stars
11/10/00 James Extraordinary acted,not a good story! 3 stars
10/31/00 Philm Phreak Sucko! 2 stars
10/31/00 Paul Emmons Your review: bull's eye. Without Spacey & Osment I'd rate it much lower 4 stars
10/28/00 cretaceous All it really needed was a car chase to be truly wretched, but it came very, very close. 2 stars
10/26/00 Marc Spacey turns in another startlingly beautiful performance... 5 stars
10/26/00 annice burdeos a bit of a disappoinment.I never believed Helen Hunt as an alcholic. Osment at times seemed 3 stars
10/25/00 emma i like thinking and feeling for myself, thank you very much. stupid and manipulative 1 stars
10/25/00 Katsat Clunky, leaden, never believable, acting wasted,terrible screenplay, editing, directing 2 stars
10/24/00 Starchild Although it jumps around, this was a really good film. The Acting, I believe, will save it. 4 stars
10/24/00 Philip Mole Manipulative Hollywood Twaddle 1 stars
10/22/00 Jenny-My-Fur Spacey is a god, this movie is incredible, it just screams out OSCAR! 5 stars
10/17/00 Suzl4 A good warm movie until the end then bring on the tears. Spacey & Osment RULE!! 4 stars
10/09/00 frank the performances are good, but the overall story (and the ending) SUCK. 2 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  20-Oct-2000 (PG-13)


  22-Feb-2001 (PG)

Directed by
  Mimi Leder

Written by
  Leslie Dixon

  Kevin Spacey
  Haley Joel Osment
  Helen Hunt
  Jon Bon Jovi
  Jay Mohr
  Angie Dickinson

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast