Retro Review: Pay It Forward

Following your dreams and discovering your heart’s wish is only some of the magic felt in the new film “Pay it Forward from Warner Bros.

“Pay It Forward” centers around Eugene Simonet, a disfigured teacher (Kevin Spacey), Trevor McKinnet, his prize student (Haley Joel Osment) and Arlene McKinney, the student’s mother (Helen Hunt).

The movie opens with Simonet trying to open the minds of this students on their first day. He places a quote on the board stating that there will be extra-credit for anyone who can grant the quote’s request. This was the quote, “Think of an idea to change our world. And put it into action.”

This whole idea enchants little Trevor and he creates a rewards system called “Pay It Forward”. “Forward” preaches that if we help somebody do something they can’t do themselves and then they turn around and do it for three other people then we might just change the world.

Simonet is amazed by Trevor’s commitment and assures him it’s a great idea. This makes Trevor even more committed so he decides to put the idea into a test phase. This is where the rest of the movie continues as Trevor tries and tries to make it all a success.

“Pay it Forward” has all the right issues and performances to be Oscar bound except it seems a little too contrived and innocent. Director Mimi Leder really doesn’t pave any new ground as the film explores this interesting rewards system.

I liked that Helen Hunt went out on a limb as she tries so hard to escape the clichéd persona she had in “Mad About You.” Is this a departure for Hunt or she finally living up to the Oscar she won? I liked her a lot better here then in any of her other performances. She does pour a lot into her role. Her character is also the most believable.

Spacey is brilliant as usual but there is really only one scene where he has his moment to shine. Of course this scene is where the mystery
behind his disfigurations is finally revealed.

What I liked about the film was the idea itself but other than that I felt kind of bewildered on what I saw.

So I guess on many levels I had a lot of problems with this movie. My first peeve is the film’s composer. This film’s score is so very close to last year’s “American Beauty” that it was almost like déjà vu when seeing Kevin Spacey set to this kind of music.

Second has to be some of the director’s choices for scenes. If this idea was supposed to change the world then why didn’t they show it trying to change a “real world”. The scenes that depict Trevor cycling through a ghetto or seedy side of town seem very out of place. Where is the filth, drunks, garbage and drug use? This is pretty unbelievable even when Trevor brings the drug addicted bum back to his house.

The bum’s whole cruel world is dumbed down in a lot of the scenes. How can we have such a great concept as Pay It Forward and not unleash it on a realistic world?

The third peeve may lie in the Trevor character itself and the character’s discovery of this idea. From this kid’s background and the abusive atmosphere he comes from where did he actually come up with the idea. The film uses a reporter to follow the idea back to its source but we never fully see how it came to be. I am not sure if the novel which this film is based does a better job but here its done to easily.

Have you ever left a theatre feeling great and that movie made you feel captivating emotion? When I walked out of “Pay it Forward” I felt abused in some respects. This film inflicts emotion but never really makes the experience a blessing. You kind of feel victimized that this much kind of film can do that to you.

(3 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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