Pay It Forward

Review Date:
Director: Mimi Leder
Writer: Leslie Dixon
Producers: Steven Reuther, Peter Abrams & Robert L. Levy
Kevin Spacey as Reuben St.Clair
Haley Joel Osment as Trevor McKinney
Helen Hunt as Arlene McKinney
A young boy is challenged to make the world a better place by his teacher and comes up with a revolutionary idea about helping those who can’t help themselves. If you become a recipient of said good deed from another, you must in turn, perform an exemplary favor for three other people, and so on, and so forth. It isn’t long before the young boy draws his teacher and mother into the world of “paying it forward”.
Great concept, top-notch acting and a nice try but this film ultimately fails because it tags convenient situations on to its second half and gives us one of the most uninspiring endings that I have seen in years! Don’t they have test audiences for stuff like this? Why anyone would think that this finale “completes” this picture in any way is beyond me! But enough about the crappy ending. On the whole, the film was actually working for me until about the halfway point. That’s when things started to get a little sloppy with various clichéd/unbelievable character moments. One character conveniently relating an exact replica story of his past to identify with a problem situation of the present…a little farfetched. Another completely artificial and one-dimensional character showing up for only one purpose…because the script needed someone to show up and mess things up at that point. And yet another character conveniently becoming a relation to someone else in the film because it served the script, and nothing else (is this a soap opera?). All very convenient circumstances which might’ve been interesting if they had been made believable. Unfortunately for me, they all rang false and those three phony moments combined to draw me away from any attachment that I had developed with the lead characters to that point. Of course, the film’s horrible conclusion also helped solidify my disappointment in a story which seemed to be aiming for so much, while ultimately bullseying so little.

The movie also ran on for too long with not enough time spent on the most interesting aspect of the film…duh, the whole concept of “pay it forward”! The idea itself was captivating, but just seemed to become more of a backdrop to the sentimental festivities in the foreground as the movie moved onwards. I really loved the “pay it forward” moments between people and would’ve liked to have seen more of them in the film, perhaps even developed further. And it’s all really too bad because the talent assembled here is as good as they come. Spacey delivers, as does Hunt, while Osment proves to everyone that THE SIXTH SENSE (8/10) was no fluke. But the script, boy-oh-boy, what the heck happened to the script? It felt like someone else came in about halfway and reduced it down to this melodramatic slosh pile of faux circumstances. And even though I was getting a certain “message” from the film as it progressed (the world can be a better place), the ending just seemed to flush any enthusiasm that I had for that concept out of me. Also, the score was way too similar to the one in AMERICAN BEAUTY. C’mon folks, try a little harder next time, will ya? All in all, a misfire, a decent attempt at reaching for that higher goal but coming up short. Catch it on video for the strong performances and try to figure out yourself when exactly things started going wrong in this film. And yes, you can “pay this” review forward on to three other people if you like…in fact, please do.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

Pay It Forward



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