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Pursuit of Happiness
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by Scott Weinberg

"The rom-com equivalent of a tasty PB & J sandwich"
4 stars

There's next to nothing trailblazing or unique about Pursuit of Happiness, yet it's still presented in an endearingly straightforward fashion and features a handful of performances that manage to elevate the familiarity into something capably entertaining.

Any movie that opens with a male/female "best friend" relationship has probably already telegraphed its inevitably happy ending. But heck - we all knew that Harry and Sally were destined to end up together, and that knowledge certainly didn't mar a generally brilliant romantic comedy.

That's not to imply that Pursuit of Happiness is all that comparable to Rob Reiner's watershed romance, but my point is that a movie can entertain even if it doesn't harbor any massive surprises.

Always-likeable Frank Whaley plays Alan, a (seemingly) upwardly-mobile young professional who's just been offered an impressive new position at a swanky dot-com outfit. Unfortunately his new job is in Seattle, and accepting it would require a whole host of unwelcome "life changes". One such change is thrust upon Alan when he returns home from the interview and finds his fickle (hottie) girlfriend in the midst of moving out.

With his professional and personal lives going down the tubes, Alan clings to his cadre of loyal old pals, chief among them his life-long best friend Marissa (Annabeth Gish) - an affable woman who's also going through some decidedly tough times with her own marriage.

Hmmm. Alan and Marissa are "friends since birth"; he's been dumped and her husband is growing more and more estranged....

Anyone have a clue where this one is headed?

Like I said, this one succeeds despite being a tad on the predictable side - mainly because the screenplay (by John Zaring) is rooted firmly in what often resmbles "reality". That such a potentially tiresome old theme manages to entertain so well is a testament to the impressive cast of character actors. Whaley and Gish deliver solid work while the background is populated by high-quality "hey I know that actor..." - type performers. Liz Vassey (TV's "The Tick"), Cress Williams (Fallen) and Patrick Van Horn (Swingers) keep things moving along quite colorfully, plus mega-cutie Amy Jo Johnson (who used to play the Pink Power Ranger!) stops by to deliver a kooky, sexy performance that should win her a whole LOT of male fans.

Pursuit of Happiness is a pretty familiar affair, but it's predictable in a comfortable sorta way and not a 'holy moley is this a paint-by-numbers piece of crap' kinda way. It's fairly clear that some real heart went into this romantic little indie, and it's certainly worthy of a look. Don't expect this one to re-invent the wheel and you'll find yourself liking it.

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originally posted: 06/09/03 12:12:40
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1/05/07 annabel excellent 5 stars
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