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Early Happyness review

03.17.2006

Let me put this right out there first before we even get stared: I don't like Will Smith. As a guy? Might be a real special human being. As an actor? Just don't care for his work. Not MEN IN BLACK, not INDEPENDENCE DAY, BAD BOYS, ALI, I ROBOT, etc. Nada. The last thing of his that I enjoyed was "Nightmare on My Street." But I'm trying not to hate the player but to hate the game. I know Will's got tons and tons of fans and they seem to enjoy what he brings to a film. After ALI, which was supposed to bring Smith his first Oscar, he returns to more serious, Oscar-bait fare with this December's THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS. One of our JoBlo.com spies, "The Dude," was able to catch an early screening of HAPPYNESS and actually enjoyed the heck out of it. He says HAPPYNESS could do for Smith what ALI was unable to and get him that elusive Oscar win. Some mild spoilers below but it's based on a true story so... Anyway, check it out below:

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Set in 1981, PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS tells the story of a bone marrow x-ray machine salesman as he struggles to find a new career as a stockbroker in San Fransisco, while being the best dad he can be to his 5 year old son. Going from poor to broke to homeless, the film eloquently shows the struggle what one man will go through in order to achieve the ultimate goal of being happy.

Overall, it was pretty good movie. It had a few areas that could have been cut down, a few areas that dragged a bit, and a few scenes that just didn't need to be there, for the most part the film worked for me. Will Smith did an excellent job as the struggling father- his best dramatic performance ever, even better than ALI. Giving him a mustache and a mini-80s fro with a few wisps of grey took away those boyish good looks and gave us a real guy. His performance here might just give him an Oscar nomination, as it felt like the real deal- I wasn't watching Will Smith the pop star or the actor, I was watching a guy struggle financially, and emotionally, so much in fact that it hurt to watch. Not to say that his performance was solely dramatic, there was plenty of comic relief parts with Smith being the funny Smith we all know and love- which helped give his character likability, instead of distracting us away from what was really going on.

What stood out here is the performance of his son, who just happens to be his son in real life. Not only does their chemistry show on screen, but the kid can act! Putting aside the fact that he's one of the cutest kids out there, I believed his performance from start to finish. The relationship that's created between Smith and his son is so powerful and heartwarming, that as I walked to my car after it was all over, it was what stood out to me more than anything else. I don't have kids, but seeing the relationship between this father and son, watching them go through some pretty awful stuff just to get by, and yet never slowing down when it came to supporting and loving each other- it made me want to have a little rug rat of my own. The bond they share on screen, mixed with the struggles they go through to make ends meet, even after they become homeless on the streets of S.F., was amazing to me. I really can't say enough about this part of the movie. It will have every woman crying, and every man wishing he could.

The aspects that didn't work for me had to do with pacing problems more than anything else. The beginning took to long to jump into the story, and didn't really add to the overall development of the characters. Smith provides a voice over throughout the film, stating "This part of my life is called..."- this worked in some places, and not in others. The film's score was way too dramatic for me, as soon as the opening credits started to roll I wanted to kill myself it was so depressing. Yes, there was plenty of depressing moments in the film, like Smith and his son sleeping in a BART station bathroom for the night, but come on! Lighten the score the rest of the time!

Thandie Newton as the mom didn't really do anything for me either- she more just played your typical role of the unhappy bitch of a mother, and I suppose it worked here, but it didn't really seem like Smith and her EvER had a connection. Talk about a mismatched couple. Even when she has to make the decision to leave her husband and her son, you never really get the feeling that she feels bad- I know I was happy to see her go. That should have been a really intense moment, that just came off like she was going through the motions.

Intermixed throughout are a few funny moments that were greatly needed, including: Smith getting hit by a car and losing his shoe- only to have to go back to his stockbroker internship missing a shoe (trust me, it's funny); his son tells a few jokes that are true knee-slappers, especially told by a 5 year old; a crazy homeless guy swears the bone marrow x ray machine Smith carries around selling is a time machine; Smith showing up to a job interview in painter scrubs after being released from Jail. Ok, that might not sound funny (sounds pathetic really), but Smith's charming self really makes it an amusing scene.

So will this be what they'll release in December? I'd say for the most part it will, though it'd be a good idea to tighten it up a bit and get a new score. Will this be an Oscar contender or a blockbuster? I'd say Smith has a good chance of being nominated, though nothing else really stuck out to me as being great. A blockbuster? Smith might be able to bring in the crowds, but as it's Smith as you've never seen him before (the man pretty much made me cry), tough to say if it'll break the bank.

The relationship between father and son might be the best ever filmed, and as it's based on a true story, it really is inspiring. You've heard of rags to riches stories before, but most times they gloss over the rags part. Not here. This is a movie about struggles, about fatherhood, about being a provider, about being a man and above all else- about the pursuit of happiness.

8/10 Stars

Source: JoBlo.com

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