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A Review of 'The Pursuit of Happyness'
December 19, 2006

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

In the cinematic tradition of Frank Capra, Will Smith and Italian director Gabriele Muccino are giving filmgoers this year the perfect holiday gift.

It arrives in the form of a tender and thoroughly inspiring big-screen presentation called "The Pursuit of Happyness."

People have been hungering for films that lift the spirits while imparting valuable life lessons. "Happyness" does so and in a most exquisite manner.

The movie is No. 1 in the nation and for good reason ($27 million in box office and climbing). It tells the true tale of a dad who despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles perseveres for the love of his son and magnitude of personal determination.

The plotline springs from the life of Chris Gardner who wrote an autobiography of the same title.

For decades now, Hollywood has presented business folks as vile. In a welcome change, this movie takes a fresh approach.

The film's backdrop is San Francisco in the 1980s. Gardner (played by Will Smith) is in a downward spiral, barely making ends meet. Selling medical bone scanners enables him to scrape by for a while.

During one of his many low points, Gardner's wife leaves him, but he refuses to relinquish his 5-year-old boy, Christopher (played by Smith's real-life son Jaden).

In a memorable scene, Gardner interviews for a job at Dean Witter wearing less than suitable attire. Through personal charm and courage, though, he manages to obtain a six-month internship. The position is without pay and holds only a slim possibility that a job offer will follow when completed.

During the internship, Gardner faces homelessness, a condescending boss (played by Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson) and a car-body collision. Each step of the difficult journey he manages to find his footing and with grace and humor is able to beat back adversity.

In a poignant moment, Gardner tells his son that he should never let anyone tell him that a dream can't be realized. "Protect the dream," he says to his boy. "Then go out and get it."

Good advice for life and a "Happyness" ticket.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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