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Overall Rating

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

9 reviews, 97 user ratings

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Pay It Forward
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by Collin Souter

"PIF KNows Nothing About The World It Wants To Change"
2 stars

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.

“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.

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originally posted: 02/18/01 19:27:17
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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
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  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

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