CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

October 2000 Review of "Pay it Forward" - A Modern Christian Parable?

Elizabeth Hurley & Adam Sandler were the
hottest stars of 2000 AD to portray devils in Hollywood big
budgeted marketing affairs. While unheralded, there
is a subtle Christian message seeping through two
movies of the last month. "Remember the Titans"
presented a glorious message about redemption, "Pay
it Forward" presents redemption through suffering.

Based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde, "Pay it
Forward" begins when a 7th Grade Social Studies
Teacher (Kevin Spacey) assigns an extra credit

"Think of an idea for world change and put it into

Student Trevor McKiney (Haley Joel Osment) creates a
Multi Level Marketing action plan incorporating random
acts of favors. If you do a good deed for 3 people,
ask the recipient to pay it forward to 3 more people,
so that 9 people will benefit. If those 9 people pay
it forward to 3 more people then 27 people will

While his first 3 favors seemed doomed to failure,
Trevor's plan becomes a folkloric sensation. A
reporter in California (Jay Mohr) becomes an
unexpected heir and seeks to find the source of the
"Pay it Forward" movement. Trevor's homework brings
him into conflict with his Mom (Helen Hunt.) She is a
single mother who works two jobs in Las Vegas and has
problems with alcoholism and abusive relationships.

There are some funny and tender moments as the "Pay it
Forward" movement crosses from the homeless shelters
to the executive board room. Yet there is an
intrusive cynicism that intrudes upon any potential
corny romanticism that makes this move tough to watch.

Haley Joel Osment proves that his Oscar nomination for
"The Sixth Sense" was no fluke. He communicates
another pained individual, perhaps Christ-like, yet
retains the hormonal imbalance of being 12 years old.

Kevin Spacey gets to sink his teeth into the role of a
battle scarred 7th Grade Teacher who has accepted life
as routine. Spacey is far more affecting in this
movie than he was for award winning performance in
"American Beauty." While he is mostly erudite with
his interpersonal communication, his dime store
vocabulary fails him when he is emotional cornered.

In her second movie in two weeks, Helen Hunt gives
another consistent performance that echoes her award
winning role in "As Good as it Gets." She is at her
best revealing her character's inner thoughts in
close-up to the audience.

Angie Dickenson plays an important character role as a
homeless alcoholic. The glamor queen of the old "Bob
Hope Television Specials" should be given the Cecil B.
Demille Award for playing such a dirty role of
defeated dreams. Jim Carvizel is affecting as a junkie
and the actor starting to make a name for himself.

Be forewarned, this is a sad movie that can be
depressing upon afterthought. It has more to do with
Bette Davis' dying in "Dark Victory" than it does with
Frank Capra's "Meet John Doe." For the year 2000,
"Pay it Forward" is as good as it gets when "American
Beauty" meets "The Sixth Sense."
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