Worth A Look: 26%
Pretty Bad: 26.67%
Total Crap: 10%
9 reviews, 96 user ratings
|Pay It Forward
by Collin Souter
I’m not looking forward to the part where I have to describe the story of this movie, Pay It Forward. The movie should have played out like the experimental Time Code, where you have four different stories going on all at once, yet your attention stays focused on one at a time. I think this movie would have come out better had they done that. On the other hand, we would still have to endure what has to be the worst, most contrived and pandering ending of any movie so far this year.The movie starts out with a reporter (Jay Mohr) whose car gets destroyed while he tries to get a story on a hostage situation. Nobody helps him on this cold and rainy night until a mysterious stranger gives him a Jaguar to take home. Here, Mohr learns about the “Pay It Forward” movement, where you do a good deed for three people and they, in turn, have to do a good deed for three people and so on, and so on, and so on.
"PIF KNows Nothing About The World It Wants To Change"
“4 Months Earlier,” a caption reads.
Haley Joel Osment goes to his Social Studies class on the first day of school where the teacher (Kevin Spacey) gives his students an assignment to figure out a way to change the world, then “put it in ACTION.” Osment helps a homeless heroin addict by giving him a garage to sleep in. Meanwhile, Osment’s mother (an almost un-recognizable Helen Hunt) works two jobs, one at a Vegas casino, the other at a Vegas men’s club. Oh, and she used to be an alcoholic, but she has a sponsor now.
Oh, and also, Kevin Spacey’s character’s face has been burned up really bad, so that also explains why he makes himself something of an outcast. Anyway, Osment’s character sees a golden opportunity between these two people and tries to play matchmaker for them, obviously trying to fill the father-figure void left by his real father, played by Rick Springfield.*
Meanwhile, Mohr’s character has been trying desperately to find the instigator if the “Pay It Forward” movement. He darts all over Vegas, L.A., various jail cells and drunken wino clubs, meeting some colorful characters along the way.
Meanwhile, the homeless heroin addict wanders around places and saves vaguely depressed women from jumping off bridges. Why? Because someone gave him a Bronco to sleep in. Sure. Sorry, but I have a problem with a movie where drug-addicts do things. Drug addicts don’t do anything. Spend a weekend with one, you’ll see. Nothing. They don’t travel on buses and they don’t fix trucks. You know what they remind me of? Fish heads.
Anyway, this whole “Pay it forward” movement supposedly binds these characters together, but I just didn’t buy into any of it. I liked the scenes between Spacey and Hunt. I liked the progression of their relationship in the first hour or so, but the movie didn’t flesh out any of Spacey’s Obsessive-compusion disorders (for fear of repeating the other Helen Hunt OCD comedy As Good As It Gets perhaps?). They just seem to exist for the sake of drama.
The movie received its biggest laugh from the audience when Simon LeBon came in to play the part of Osment’s estranged father. I have to say, I know that this guy, Corey Hart, has been trying to make it as a legit actor, but it doesn’t work. The audience knows Daryl Hall just walked on screen and they can’t take it seriously. I know I couldn’t. Poor Adrien Zmed.*
Anyway, all of this could have led to a passable 2 ˝ star movie, but it makes a drastically hokey wrong turn in the last 10 minutes obviously for the sake of yanking at our heartstrings. I’ll try not to give too much away here. You have to see it to believe it. Apparently, Osment’s character’s “Pay it forward” scheme (He thought of it, just so you know) has such a profound affect on the people of Las Vegas that they all turn up at his doorstep to the tune of “Calling All Angels,” the result of which brings to mind the final shot of Field Of Dreams and the classic 1970’s Coca Cola commercial.
You know the one:
I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company
If you don’t have that song going through your head when you leave the theater, you obviously don’t know much about 70’s pop culture, just as the movie doesn’t know that much about the real world it so badly wants to change.
In this world, alcoholics suddenly decide they won’t drink anymore, and that will be that. The recovery process does not exist in this world, and relationships always have a funny way of working out. In this world, heroin addicts decide they don’t want to shoot up again as soon as they see a beautiful woman about to jump off a bridge. They react with warmth and kindness at the sight. They forget all about getting hooched up on whack. In this world, a boozed up old Grandma (Angie Dickenson, who plays Hunt’s mother) can be pretty easy to find. You just have to go where the freight trains dock for the night. You can also take them home during their moment of sobriety and not expect any complications. In this world, an L.A. journalist thinks the “Pay it forward” movement will be hot news.
All cynicism aside, I do believe we need films with positive and uplifting messages such as this, that one person can make a difference and it has always been up to us to remember that and put that message in action. I like a non-cynical movie to come around and express that. But, when the movie just stops toward the end and decides it can’t trust its audience to receive its message unless it resorts to sentimental terrorist attacks, the message loses its meaning and power.By the end of this movie, I have no desire to change the real world. I would just like to show the writers of this movie what it would be like if they lived in it for one day. And then they can tell three Hollywood writers, and so on, and so on, and so on…
*--I’m finding it hard to come to grips with the fact that I sat through a film featuring Jon Bon Jovi.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=3898&reviewer=233
originally posted: 02/18/01 19:27:17