The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) ***

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1hr 57min
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Stars: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton
Genre: Drama
Language: English

Don’t Let Anyone Tell You What You Can Be

In a Nutshell


Straight as an Arrow

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear

Who's That?

Few Main Characters

Naughty Words


Naked people




“Was it as easy as it looked?” the Dean Witter exec asks our beleaguered hero as he aces the one internship, earning himself a job at the firm and beats out scores of others. You call that easy? The audience wants to respond, except it’s too silly: we’ve just sat through almost 2 hours of unrelenting misery, Job-like suffering, as Will Smith endures marital separation, single parenthood, homelessness, arrest and overnight stay in a jail, IRS seizing his meager assets, thievery, getting hit by a car, and sleeping in a train station bathroom with his 5 year old. Almost every scene shows Smith running, physically pursuing happiness; he’s believably gaunt and haggard, strung out on no sleep. You feel for him; you root for him to make it - he’s such a decent, hardworking fellow and devoted dad. But 117 minutes? - too much for us. We got the point earlier on and don’t have to be hammered over the head with it.This being said, it’s still a terrific movie: Smith’s character conquers all by sheer dint of his natural abilities - he’s a born salesman whose affability and smarts impresses everyone he meets. He has every odd stacked against him, but is determined to come out a Wall Street winner. You can’t help wondering: why aren’t there more movies like this, feel-good stories of young, poor, minority strivers who make good? It’s the old Horatio Alger formula and it still works.

The movie is based on the true life story of Chris Gardner, a foster child, who went on to become a multimillionaire, motivational speaker, and philanthropist. This role is a departure of sorts for Will Smith who has chosen more often then not action/comedy/hip guy roles (Men in Black, Men in Black II, Bad Boys, Bad Boys II, Independence Day and Wild Wild West). He shows himself equal to the task of exhibiting much of the scope of human emotions: anger, humility, humor, pathos, charm and wit. He’s a fine actor as he previously displayed in Ali (2001) where he portrayed Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali.

The role of his son is played by real life son, Jaden Smith, who seems to have inherited his father’s acting talent. The interactions between the two of them are even more poignant because of this relationship. This added dimension no doubt influenced the director’s decision to select Jaden over the hundreds of other candidates vying for the role.

The “pursuit of happiness” is of course a quote from the Declaration of Independence, which Smith refers to often in the film for inspiration. As an American, Smith feels entitled to this pursuit, as we all are. After viewing this film, Janet, as a HR exec, vows the next time an interviewee comes in looking a little bedraggled, she’ll listen more carefully (and perhaps less critically) to his or her story, not knowing what it took to get there that day.

Shelly Hanner, a retired government executive, is honored to be reviewing for this site, and wants everyone to know his teeth are his own. Janet Garber, a human resources executive and published author, has been living with Shelly's corny jokes for some time now, and her only escape is going to the movies!


Marsha said on April 23, 2008


Thanks for the review. I am going to watch this movie this weekend.

Wayne D. said on April 23, 2008


Again, another nice review. Although not a Will Smith fan, the main subject matter of the movie makes me want to see it. I will put it on my list of films to watch.

Hope said on April 23, 2008


I’ve always loved your jokes, Dad. Nice review.

Sandy said on April 29, 2008


I watched the movie and thought it was great, but had I not seen it…your review would have inspired me! Great review, beautiful picture and keep the wonderful sense of humor!!

Gail E. said on May 3, 2008



lily @dentist said on June 4, 2008


I saw the movie first before reading your comprehensive review. Love it! It’s like Cliff Notes for movies. Will Smith puts his heart and soul into this performance. Keep those punch lines coming.

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