The Pursuit of Happyness is the story of a poverty-stricken man who has the enduring will to overcome his dark past and pursue his dreams. It is also the story of a top Hollywood actor who delivers his most sophisticated performance yet. In the end, both Chris Gardener and Will Smith share a common happiness: they've achieved great success and earned tremendous respect at whatever it is they are doing.
Written by Steve Conrad and directed by Italian filmmaker Gabriele Muccino, whose L’Ultimo Bacio / One Last Kiss was warmly received by critics, The Pursuit of Happyness introduces us to Chris Gardener (Smith), a penniless salesman who invested too much money in unwanted bone scanners. Abandoned by his wife Linda (Thandie Newton) and kicked out of his house, Chris wanders the streets of San Francisco worrying about how he is going to feed his five-year-old son Christopher (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith).
A potential solution presents itself in the form of an unpaid six-month internship at a top-notch stock brokerage firm. Fully determined, Chris sucks up all of his fears and throws himself into a strenuous battle against 19 other candidates up for the sole free position.
Throughout, The Pursuit of Happyness manages to be downbeat, without feeling corny. Will Smith, whose phenomenal role as Chris Gardner earned him an Oscar nomination, does a remarkable job at capturing the true emotions of a man who is willing to do whatever it takes to overcome life's hurdles and protect his child. He shares a wonderful chemistry with his real-life son Jaden on the screen, and crafts unique moments of utter sorrow as in a scene where Chris has to spend the night in a public bathroom.
As an inspirational Hollywood drama, The Pursuit of Happyness sometimes stretches credibility. It is hard to believe for instance, that a mother who claims she loves her son would just leave him behind to move to New York City. The events that lead up to Chris nailing his internship seem to push the level of reality too at times, but then again, it's really hard to determine what in the movie is actually based on a true story and what is not.
Ultimately, The Pursuit of Happyness is worth watching. Will Smith’s incredible performance and Muccino’s interesting vision of the American Dream give the film a flair that's hard to dislike.
Knowing that The Pursuit of Happyness was inspired by the true story of Chris Gardner, people will surely want to find out more about who this man is. The special features on the DVD may be helpful, as they do offer a short and interesting look at how closely he was tied to the project.
Besides the habitual dosage of previews, the The Pursuit of Happyness DVD comprises a handful of short documentaries. “Making Pursuit: An Italian Take on the American Dream” is a lively and informative 7-minute segment about Italian filmmaker Gabriele Muccino’s experience in shooting his first motion picture in the U.S. The footage also includes Muccino’s definition of the American Dream and chronicles his choice of filming locations in San Francisco.
“Father and Son: Onscreen and Off” is an insightful conversation with Will Smith about how far his character in the movie is willing to go to protect his son. The piece also emphasizes the chemistry between Smith and his son Jaden, and documents their best father-and-son moments in the film.
The most touching of the DVD supplements is “The Man Behind the Movie: A Conversation with Chris Gardener,” a 12-minute documentary in which the real Chris Gardner explains which aspects of the movie have the most significance to him. Be it trains, buses or a replica of the public bathroom he used to live in, some of these scenes make it obvious that he is still undergoing strong emotional stress when confronted with memories of his dark past.
Also featured on the disc is a short but very enlightening clip titled “Inside the Rubik’s Cube.” Experts discuss the success of the baffling puzzle and give away some clues about its mechanism. The footage also includes some remarkable scenes of Rubik professionals solving the cube in seconds, blindfolded and with only one hand.
The disc also includes “I Can,” a slow but enjoyable ballad performed by Bebe Winans and Dave Koz. The song was not featured in the theatrical release and is presented as audio only. Not exactly a treat.
The special features section of The Pursuit of Happyness DVD offers an overall satisfying glimpse behind the scenes of the movie. The audio commentary by director Gabriele Muccino can at times be strenuous, but he warns the listeners about his strong English accent at the very beginning and tries his best to share his interesting thoughts and analysis.