The Pursuit of Happyness

 
(i)

 

Inspirational but often emotionally wrenching story.
Common Sense Media Award
  • Review Date: March 25, 2007
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 117 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Strong messages about the importance of persistence, hard work, believing in yourself, and being there for each other. The heart of the movie is the strong father-son bond between the two main characters.

Positive role models

Noble father dotes on son and is dedicated to taking care of him through thick and thin. He takes his son along on job-related excursions and lies in front of him (the kid looks appropriately skeptical when he hears it). Chris also briefly discourages and yells at his son, after which he is immediately apologetic. Perpetually irritated mom abandons her son early in the movie.

Violence

Parents' loud argument worries their son; Chris is hit by a car, leaving his face bruised and clothes bedraggled; father yells at son for crying, frightening him into obedience; Chris starts to fight a man in line at a shelter, frightening his son, who cries.

Sex

Mother appears briefly in her bra and panties while changing into her work uniform.

Language

"F--k" written as graffiti on wall, noted and spoken by father and son; several uses of "damn," "hell," "s--t," "ass," and "a--hole." "You suck" written on wall.

Consumerism

Most products are used to mark the year (1981): A Rubik's cube figures prominently in the plot; Members Only jacket; Raging Bull movie poster; Magic Johnson poster, Captain America action figure. Chris goes to work for the Dean Witter brokerage.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Mom smokes cigarettes several times.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Will Smith will draw kids to this movie. But it's not an action flick or slapstick comedy -- it's an inspirational and often emotionally wrenching story. It includes some very sad scenes between family members, as well as a couple of emotionally scary ones. The mother becomes so frustrated with her husband's inability to make a living that she leaves him and their son. Later, the father yells at his son for a trivial reason and gets in a fight, scaring the boy and making him cry. If your child is in a clingy period with you, this might upset him or her. There's a very brief allusion to the mixed effects of classism and racism on the son. The father's frustration sometimes leads to tears and sometimes to angry language (mostly damn and "s--t"). A graffitied "f--k" leads to a brief discussion of the word, and the son says it out loud.

What's the story?

Based on a true story and set in 1981 San Francisco, Pursuit begins as Chris Gardner (Will Smith) and his wife, Linda (Thandie Newton), are having troubles. She works double shifts doing hotel laundry; he's trying to sell bone density scanners (i.e., specialty medical machines that, as Chris admits in voiceover, are too expensive for most doctors to buy). When Linda abandons the family, Chris remains determined. He spends six months working in an unpaid internship at Dean Witter, dead set on becoming a stock broker. He's smart enough and good with numbers, he figures, having proved that much by solving a Rubik's cube in front of a Dean Witter broker. As he studies and scrapes by, barely earning enough each week to pay for meals, Chris is sure he's going to make it.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Jaden Smith is adorable. He delivers an endearing performance as Gardner's son, Christopher, in what turns out to be a simple, sentimental, but ultimately inspiring movie. The film deals with the American Dream from a particular perspective, focusing, as the title implies, on the constitutional right to "pursue" happiness, rather than the right to be happy. In this manner, the movie is able to avoid focusing much on institutional racism and how that factors into achieving the Dream. Instead, the relationship between father and son, through all the ups and downs of family strife and economic instability, take center stage, with lovely results.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of stories like Chris'. Why do people like rags-to-riches tales? Why are they considered good material for movies? How close do you think the movie version is to the true story?

  • Families can also talk about the risks that Chris takes to provide a "better life" for his son. How does the movie show that little Christopher is both scared of having no place to sleep, but also utterly trusting of his dad? Is it OK that Chris tells a white lie in front of his son to get a job?

  • How does the film portray the decision by Christopher's mother to leave him? From whose point of view do you see this choice?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 14, 2006
DVD release date:March 27, 2007
Cast:Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, Will Smith
Director:Gabriele Muccino
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Genre:Drama
Run time:117 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some language.
Award:Common Sense Media Award

This review of The Pursuit of Happyness was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 10 years old August 13, 2009
 

Based on a True Story

It is good and Will Smith is a great actor! So is his son.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written bymegan094eva June 27, 2009
 

Kept me reaching for the tissues...

I love this film, it is really good but really sad. There is one use of f***, and a couple of uses of other language that your average parent would not want their child using but it is still really good.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byboredgrl November 13, 2009
 

Very moving, and extremely sad until the end

This movie really made me cry! It was very touching and movie, with some mild profanity. It also teaches people a lesson on how fortunate they really are, and you should appreciate what you have.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models

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