A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Despite the fact that far more time is spent on issues like alcoholism and spousal and child abuse rather than showing more of the positive ramifications of the idea of "paying it forward," the idea of practicing random acts of kindness is discussed and sometimes shown.
Positive Role Models
Inspired by a social studies teacher who encourages his students to be aware of the bigger world beyond their school and neighborhood, 7th grader Trevor McKinney develops the idea of "paying it forward," a way for people to practice random acts of kindness and to make the world a better place. Trevor's social studies teacher is a tough but fair teacher who encourages his students to try and understand the world around them, and also encourages them to build their vocabulary.
Violence & Scariness
Character mortally wounded, stabbed to death, blood. Bullying -- boys knock down, kick, punch, and throw a boy into a dumpster. A mother slaps her son hard in the face in a moment of anger. A man talks of the physical abuse he received from his father, which resulted in the burn scars on his face and chest. A woman stands on the edge of a bridge on the verge of committing suicide. A man shatters the window of a store and steals a radio. A woman pulls a shotgun on a homeless man her son has let sleep in her garage.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sexual references and situations. References to a boy's mother sleeping around, especially when drunk. A scene in which a woman is on top of a man in bed, starting to take his shirt off.
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Frequent profanity. The "N" word used once. "Bulls--t," "bitch," "d--khead," "ass," "goddamn," "a--hole," "rat bastard," tween boy uses the word "s--t" on several occasions. A tween calls a bully a "fag."
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Products & Purchases
Pepsi and Gatorade products prominently displayed.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters struggle with drug and alcohol addictions. A woman who is trying to stop drinking hides bottles of vodka in her house and drinks when stressed. Beer and alcohol drinking in bars. Marijuana smoking. A character is addicted to heroin, with track marks on his arm. Cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pay it Forward is a 2000 movie in which Haley Joel Osment plays a 7th grade boy who, inspired by his social studies teacher, comes up with a way for people to practice random acts of kindness, which he hopes will lead to the world becoming a better place. This movie has frequent profanity, including one use of the "N" word, as well as a tween boy who calls one of his bullies "a fag." Many of the characters abuse alcohol and drugs, including heroin and marijuana. There are references to severe domestic abuse. There are some fights, one resulting in mortal injury. A character attempts suicide. Another shoots his gun, though no one is injured. A character dies tragically. References to a boy's mother sleeping around, especially when drunk. There's a scene in which a woman is on top of a man in bed, starting to take his shirt off. A character's burn scars may be upsetting. Teens may be especially concerned by the violence that occurs at a school, despite the metal-detectors kids walk through as they enter. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
If the theme of PAY IT FORWARD appeals to you and you'd like to see three of the finest actors ever put on film, then you're the audience for this movie. If it sounds syrupy, go see something else. Haley Joel Osment portrays Trevor as an extraordinary child, wise and sensitive beyond his years because of what he has had to face, but still completely believable as an 11-year-old. Helen Hunt is heartbreaking as Arlene, a recovering alcoholic with a history of loss and abuse. And Kevin Spacey is breathtaking in a role that's a departure from the tough and wily guys he often plays.
Trevor's idea doesn't always work, but when it does, people are transformed, not by the favors others do for them as much as by the favors they do for the next people in the chain. We get a glimpse of its impact as the story is interwoven with scenes four months into the future, as a reporter tries to track down the source of the mysterious acts of generosity.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.