In early '80s San Francisco, Chris Gardner ( Will Smith) tries to work his way off the streets and into a brokerage firm while taking care of his son (Smith's real-life son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith). The film is based on the actual experiences of Gardner, who went on to found the Chicago firm Gardner Rich and Co.
Big question: Can "The Pursuit of Happyness" capture the inspirational power of this story while showing the hardships of homelessness?
Skip it: Voiceover is rarely necessary, but in "The Pursuit of Happyness" any forward momentum is dragged down by Chris telling us what we can plainly see for ourselves. More problematic is that homelessness looks oddly manageable, with Chris' son keeping in good spirits and never seeming hungry, dirty or upset over the conditions.
Catch it: If you wish your experiences were easily categorized. In voiceover, Chris titles different sections of his life (such as "Riding the Bus") that really serve only to split up chapters on the forthcoming DVD.
Bottom line: Only a total Scrooge wouldn't feel good at the end of the movie, but "The Pursuit of Happyness" merely trudges through a lot of downs on its way to the big, rewarding finale. In the long-term, the most impressive aspect of Gardner's life was how he turned one good job into a multi-million dollar company; too bad "The Pursuit of Happyness" is more interested in the struggle to get started than the innovation it takes to keep going and thrive.
Bonus: One thing you can learn from Chris is that next time you're looking to land a job offer, don't worry about your resume. Employers are much more impressed with Rubik's cube skills.
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
'The Pursuit of Happyness'
Directed by Gabriele Muccino; screenplay by Steven Conrad; cinematography by Phedon Papamichael; edited by Hughes Winborne; production design by J. Michael Riva; music by Andrea Guerra; produced by Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch, James Lassiter and Will Smith. A Columbia Pictures release. Running time: 1:56. MPAA rating: PG-13 (some language).
Chris Gardner -- Will Smith
Linda -- Thandie Newton
Christopher -- Jaden Smith
Walter Ribbon -- Kurt Fuller
Jay Twistle -- Brian Howe
Martin Frohm -- James KarenCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times