'Pay It Forward' Has Far Too Many Flaws

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'Pay It Forward' Has Far Too Many Flaws

"Pay It Forward" is the term coined for an extra-credit project of a seventh-grade student trying to change the world through a philanthropic act. The idea is to do favors for others in threes, which they in turn will do for another set of three people, thus creating an exponential growth of good deeds that the student (Harley Joel Osment) unknowingly spreads throughout the country.

Performance-wise, the film has some very intense acting moments, especially from its youngest cast member, Osment. However, no amount of talent can give life to a bad script, and the end result is a movie that tries to appeal to the audience with its "Forrest Gump"-like values (Osment's debut film), but lacks an engaging and solid plot viewers can really get into.

At times, the film comes off like a social welfare propaganda campaign and viewers may recognize the similarities of this film to director Mimi Leder's previous "Deep Impact" in the all-encompassing, everyone-loves-each-other, feel-good final scenes.

Osment plays Trevor, a boy living alone with his alcoholic but loving mother (Helen Hunt). Through a class assignment, Trevor's teacher Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey), challenges his class to think of ways in which to improve the world. Trevor devises a plan of doing favors for people in advance, which he believes will have a rippling effect on society. Mr. Simonet applauds Trevor's idea as a contribution to a more utopian society, but as he grows closer to the boy, realizes the project is really an act of desperation and one child's effort to regain a sense of control in his own troubled life.

As one of the three people he chooses to help, Trevor picks his emotionally and physically scarred teacher, attempting to play matchmaker between him and his mother. The problem with this awkward romance is that we are led to assume that the mother can fall in love with Mr. Simonet without any explanation as to why.

Obviously, since the character of Mr. Simonet is horribly disfigured, it would only make sense to focus on how or what it is about him that Trevor's mother falls in love with. Apparently, she sees some kind of intrinsic good within Mr. Simonet (viewers can't really put a finger on why) and falls in love with him based on a whim. In the climactic scene between the two, however, we do get an interesting glimpse into Mr. Simonet's background, and fine performances from Hunt and Spacey finally give this love triangle a little more basis for feasibility. However, the suddeness of their coming together makes it seem a little contrived.

Child actors/actresses have always been somewhat of a turnoff for me, especially because of the media hype and drug-related stories that always seem to follow them into adolescence after initial stardom.

Not to mention that most roles played by children are for a very narrow- minded purpose - not exactly comic relief, but rather cute-relief. While audiences may have grown accustomed to swallowing these kinds of performances, the movie "Pay It Forward" offers a new look at the convention of young performers. Osment is one of the few actors who has broken this mold, and delivers a performance that is both touching and alive.

It is not possible to put together three stars of this caliber without having some magical moments on screen, hence, making it worth watching. But the movie's weaving back and forth between Trevor's life and the chain of events that he sets off has a very wandering, endless feel to it (much like the vast setting of the Las Vegas landscape where it takes place) and will leave viewers more tired than inspired.

by Joseph Kim

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