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The Pursuit of Happyness(2006)
Inspired by a true story, Chris Gardner is a bright and talented, but marginally employed salesman. Struggling to make ends meet, Gardner finds himself and his five year old son evicted from their San Francisco apartment with nowhere to go. When Gardner lands an internship at a prestigious stock brokerage firm, he and his son endure many hardships, including being homeless and living in shelters, in pursuit of his dream of a better life for the two of them.
For more about The Pursuit of Happyness and the The Pursuit of Happyness Blu-ray release, see the The Pursuit of Happyness Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 22, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe, James Karen, Kurt Fuller
Director: Gabriele Muccino
» See full cast & crew
The Pursuit of Happyness Blu-ray Review
The pursuit of this Blu-ray disc will bring happyness to your collection.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 22, 2008
Don't ever let someone tell you you can't do something...you got a dream, you got to protect it. People can't to do something themselves, they want to tell you you can't do it. You want something, go get it, period.
More often than not, it's when art imitates life that we see some of the best movies emerge from Hollywood. While a departure from reality brings us films like Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it's when those truly inspirational, real-life success stories work their way into a simple, elegant, and heartwarming tale that the world of motion pictures really shines. One such fine example is The Pursuit of Happyness, a 2006 drama starring Will Smith (Independence Day) and his son, Jaden, who also happens to portray Smith's character's son, Chris Jr., in the film. Based on the real-life rags-to-riches tale of Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness (the film's title derived from not only the words of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, but also on the misspelling of the word "happiness" outside of a Chinatown day care seen in the film) serves as an often poignant but ultimately feel-good reminder of just how powerful a tool the qualities of determination, hard work, and perseverance can be, regardless of your current place in life.
Chris Gardner (Will Smith), his wife Linda (Thandie Newton, Norbit), and his son Christopher (Jaden Smith) are struggling to get by in 1981 San Francisco. Linda works double shifts at a minimum-wage job while Chris is desperately trying to sell off the last of a batch of portable bone density scanners, a scheme that's seemed to bring about more bad than good in the Gardner household. When Chris bumps into a businessman driving a red sports car, he quizzes the man as to what he does. It turns out he's a stock broker, and Chris learns from him that being good with numbers, and not necessarily a college education, can land you a job at a brokerage. A newly determined Chris manages to impress Mr. Jay Twistle (Brian Howe, RV) and his associates enough to earn him an opportunity to work at Dean Witter, despite a final interview where Chris is dressed like a "garbage man." Chris' wife scoffs at this move that she considers backwards and leaves her husband and son for a new job in New York. Nevertheless, Chris and Chris Jr. wrestle with poverty while prospective scanner sales dwindle, money runs low, and the internship proves highly demanding of Chris' time and attention. For Chris Gardner, every minute is a struggle for survival, and his future depends on his success in balancing and overcoming every obstacle life throws his way.
I have no problem in admitting that I was deeply moved by The Pursuit of Happyness. There seems to be an overriding criticism of this film, however, that it portrays money as some kind of cure-all for all that ails us. I don't see this as the theme of the story. While finances (or lack thereof) is undoubtedly one of the overriding problems Chris and his son face in this film, it is by no means seen as the ultimate objective. Instead, I saw The Pursuit of Happyness as showcasing the pursuit of success through sheer will, whereby one can rise or fall in life through the decisions they make, the honesty through which they conduct themselves and their affairs, and the determination to not accept anything less than striving for what you know to be the place where you belong in the world. I'm reminded of the famous quote from Field of Dreams that says, "if you build it, they will come." Indeed, Chris Gardner never said no, never turned away in despair, and forcefully fought for the chance to succeed. It's only a very select few to whom the riches of life are bestowed through anything less than hard work; for the rest of us, we reap what we sow, we receive what comes to us after we build, and The Pursuit of Happyness is more about the importance of sowing rather than reaping.
The Pursuit of Happyness isn't without a few issues that might have so severely hindered a lesser film that they would reduce it to sappy and silly tripe. Chris' on-screen life often seems as though it is composed of cinematic conveniences, his luck oftentimes changing for the worst so as to place him as far into the dumps and depths of despair as possible. Then, and only then, can a flicker of hope be seen that allows Chris to inch closer back out of the hole. Fortunately, the film is written and acted in such a way as to allow audiences to overlook these conveniences and get lost in the amazing tale of Chris Gardner. How many of these contrivances and conveniences are real and how many are fictional for the sake of the film's dramatic effect I do not know, but I am interested in finding this answer out (and for those of you who, like me, would like to know more about the real-life story of Chris Gardner, you can learn more about him here). Another problem the film has is its sheer predictability. Even without knowing the real-life story of Chris Gardner, I knew the film would end with a healthy dose of "happyness." I truly hope that is not giving the film away for anyone, and unless The Pursuit of Happyness will be only the eighth or ninth movie you've ever seen, you should have a fairly good idea of just how it will end. Nevertheless, so engaging is Chris' story and so wonderful are the performances from both Smith and his son (the elder nominated for a best actor Oscar for this part, and I am surprised to see the film wasn't nominated for more awards including best director, best editing, best original score, and perhaps even best picture, among others) that such generally fatal flaws can easily be overlooked in favor of the power of the film's story and the enjoyment that is the pursuit of going on Chris' journey alongside him, a journey that will likely leave you "happi" for having experienced it.
The Pursuit of Happyness Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Pursuit of Happyness shouldn't leave any Blu-ray fans feeling anything but happy after watching this wonderful 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer. This is a pleasing, realistic-in-appearance, high-quality transfer. Colors are rich and eye-popping with every shade in the book present and accounted for somewhere in the movie. Every color is vibrant and lifelike, from the many shots of the city (both out wide and up-close), to graffiti on the walls, to the colors of the various building facades in Chinatown, to the clothing worn by the characters (notably those of Chris Jr). Once again, Sony has refused the temptation to wipe grain from the transfer, and this transfer retains all of it. It's not a heavy grain presence, but it is visible through much of the movie, and it adds an authentic cinematic experience to the transfer. The image is sharp and clear with very few soft edges. Detail is remarkable; all of those objects that sported excellent colors look equally remarkable from a detail perspective. Dirt and nicks on the walls, clothing, the street, and every other object that fills the frame looks so real that I often thought I might easily reach through the screen to touch all of it. I noted a few rather large, split-second white blocks on a few frames, but otherwise, the print is in pristine condition. Black levels and flesh tones are both equally impressive. The Pursuit of Happyness is another in a long line of excellent transfers from Sony, and while it alone is not worth purchasing the disc for, it sure does make the experience of watching this film on Blu-ray all the better.
The Pursuit of Happyness Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Boasting a wonderful PCM 5.1 uncompressed soundtrack that is the perfect compliment to this film, The Pursuit of Happyness' audio mix makes enjoying the journey of Chris Gardner all the more engaging. As good as most Blu-ray discs look, I still find myself enamored by the wonderfully pure and high quality lossless or uncompressed soundtracks that accompany them, and this disc's mix is no exception. The theme that plays over the credits is a simple one, yet I could not help but smile, not only because I enjoyed the music, but because it sounds so perfectly natural and cinematic. I know I refer to that feeling quite a bit, but for me, that's the number one selling point of Blu-ray, recreating the cinema experience in your home, and lossless audio does just that. The Pursuit of Happyness is a dialogue-driven film at heart, and reproduction of that aspect of this mix is perfect. Atmospherics are wonderful when called upon; a rain storm in chapter five offers fine rear channel presence, enveloping the viewer in the moment, a sad moment in the film that is markedly improved by the rain and the mood it helps to define. Another pleasing sonic moment comes in chapter 14 as Chris and his son find themselves listening to a church choir surrounded by praising worshipers. This mix is decidedly front-heavy, but the movie it accompanies is a drama, not a war or action film, so taking into consideration the genre and the subject material, this audio track is a winner, one that creates just the right mood for the film, and it shines on Blu-ray.
The Pursuit of Happyness Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Pursuit of Happyness shouldn't leave many Blu-ray fans with a frown as the disc comes loaded with some nice extra content. Leading things off is a feature-length commentary track by director Gabriele Muccino. With a thick Italian accent, Muccino's is a pleasing voice to listen to. He provides some wonderful insight into his selection as the film's director, working with the legendary Will Smith as well as his son, whom he refers to as the movie's "secret weapon." There is nary a moment of extended dead air and despite his incomplete grasp of the English language, Muccino's track is one of the better I've heard. Making Pursuit: An Italian Take on the American Dream (1080p, 17:36) is a nice compliment to the director's commentary track, taking us further behind-the-scenes into the Italian director earning the privilege of directing the film as well as the directorial process itself.
Father and Son -- On Screen and Off (1080p, 7:30) takes a look at the involvement of Smith's son, Jaden, in the film. Unfortunately, much of this information feels a bit repetitive, but it's a nice little feature nevertheless. The Man Behind the Movie: A Conversation With Chris Gardner (1080p, 13:02) is perhaps the best feature on the disc, a chat with the film's real-life inspiration, Chris Gardner, along with Will Smith and various crew members. Inside the Rubik'sŪ Cube (1080p, 6:44) is a short look at one of the film's key plot devices, the famed toy from the 1980s. Finally, a musical performance entitled I Can (1080p, 5:10), performed by Bebe Winans and Dave Koz, and 1080p trailers for Casino Royale, Rocky Balboa, The Holiday, Stranger Than Fiction, Hitch, Gridiron Gang, and Stomp the Yard conclude this disc's special features.
The Pursuit of Happyness Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The feel-good movie represents one of my favorite genres, and The Pursuit of Happyness is another in a storied heritage of such films, including the classics like Rocky and Field of Dreams. I cannot think of a better "rainy day" movie than this one, so uplifting and inspirational is its story that even the hardest, most depressed situation or individual outlook on life might just look a bit rosier after watching the film. Although it may not have the replay value of an Independence Day or other classic action extravaganzas, I believe this is a movie with timeless values and appeal that will hold up well for years to come. With its excellent picture quality, fine audio presentation, and a handful of solid supplements (although a commentary track with Chris Gardner would have been wonderful), The Pursuit of Happyness is well worth adding to your collection. Highly recommended.
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