I’m not sure I “get” the idea of sprinkling an effervescent glow on such a depressing story. Between the lively score and animated voiceover, the whole film is damn near ruined. We know how it’ll all turn out—not because it’s based on a true story, but because Smith’s narration is so darn cheerful.
An unintentional running joke in the film has Smith chasing two unrelated thieves after they steal the x-ray machine he needs to keep his job. These acts that should indicate desperation are clouded by funky island music, making the scenes almost comical. Because after all, what’s funnier than living on the brink of unemployment? It’s like The Bicycle Thief on uppers!
To keep the story afloat, Smith’s Gardner catches the attention of Jay Twistle (Brian Howe) by solving the symbolic Rubick’s cube (an idea of Smith’s, not Gardner’s). Those with a Bachelor’s in Big Willie Style will notice this throwback to an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (sidenote: I only have an Associates, but got my Bachelors in Alfonso Ribeiro.)
Upon doing a bit of research on the real-life Chris Gardner, it’s hard not to criticize screenwriter Conrad and director Muccino for lighting up an otherwise dimmer story. What about Gardner spending over a week in jail? Or that he hauled his belongings in plastic bags and not a briefcase?
But despite its flaws in facts and flow, Will Smith’s fine performance keeps The Pursuit of Happyness on its wobbly toes for its duration. Like it or not, you’ll more than likely walk out feeling like you can conquer the world, even if just for a moment.
Making Pursuit: An Italian Take on the American Dream (17:34): This piece focuses on how director Muccino came onboard for what is his first American-filmed project. Muccino modestly points out that Americans can’t understand The American Dream like an Italian…okay, that sounds bad, but he gives it some sense. Not a bad watch, overall. But what’s with this Disney Channel narration?
Father and Son – On Screen and Off (7:29): Muccino, according to himself, wasn’t after “happy” or “cute” for the role of Christopher (Smith’s son, Jaden), but rather “real”…because after all, what’s “realer” than the son of a millionaire? Can’t wait ‘til he’s on My Super Sweet Sixteen in eight years.
The Man Behind the Movie: A Conversation with Chris Gardner (13:02): This…is exactly what you’d think. No frills here, just a, well, conversation with Chris Gardner mixed with behind-the-scenes footage…curveball!
Inside the Rubik’s Cube (6:43): Ever wonder how the famous cube was invented? Exactly how many have been sold? Are you dying to know how to solve this brainteaser? Or maybe how many different positions can be made? No? Then skip this.
Also included is an audio-only track (“I Can”) and Previews.