107 of 116 people found the following review helpful
I found this movie to be a compelling and moving cinematic experience, with outstanding, well nuanced performances by Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, and James Caviezel. It is a bona fide tearjerker. Those who enjoy that genre of film should love this one.
The movie opens up with a hostage scene being played out in a residential neighborhood, with cops everywhere. A reporter arrives on the scene only to have the cops try and give him the bum's rush. While the cops are distracted by the reporter, the perpetrator leaves the scene in a sports utitlty vehicle, but not before crashing into and totalling the reporter's car. A mysterious stranger materializes and hands the reporter the keys to a new jaguar, saying that he is giving it to him, no strings attached, since he seems to have run into a little car trouble.
The movie then cuts to a scene four months earlier. The viewer is taken to a seventh grade class room where, in a wonderful scene, student, Trevor McKinney, played by Haley Joel Osment, takes his teacher's assignment of doing something that could potentially change the world to heart. His teacher, an intelligent and controlled man, played by Kevin Spacey, whose burn scarred face masks the scars on his heart, gives out this assignment cavalierly, not really expecting that any of his students will come up with something of real note.
It turns out that Trevor, intelligent and introspective, comes up with an idea whereby he performs a potentially life changing good deed for each of three people. They in turn each do the same for three people. He calls his idea "pay it forward". It is your basic pyramid scheme with a twist. Some of the things he does will tug at your heart strings. Some of them will tickle your funny bone. One thing is for sure, unless you are made of stone, you will be moved.
Meanwhile Trevor's stressed out mom, played by Helen Hunt, is a single parent, holding down two jobs. An alcoholic in the throes of a recovery, she does the best that she can. Split from Trevor's dad, himself an alcoholic who used to batter her, she is struggling to keep on even keel. When Trevor's execution of his teacher's assignment results in what appears to be a potentially life threatening situation, it causes his mom to hit the roof and go to the school, where she confronts the baffled teacher.
Ultimately, Trevor's mom and his teacher are brought together, through the contrivance of Trevor. What initially seemed impossible, becomes a reality, and a relationship blossoms. It turns out that they have more in common than was initially thought. Meanwhile, Trevor's plan is catching on, and a number of wonderful scenes in the film illustrate this.
What happens in this film will, at times, thrill and delight you. At other times, what happens will surely move you to tears. Some may call the movie manipulative and schmaltzy. It is simply just an old fashioned tearjerker.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2005
I will not bore you with the storyline as other reviewers have already touched on that.
If making the world a better place for everyone is important to you, then definitely watching this movie is something you would like to do.
The idea is to help three people in need and when they ask you what do you want in return, all you have to do is tell them that they will not want to do it. Of course, this is reverse psychology and the more you say they will not want to do it, the more they will want to do it. When they pester you for an answer, you then tell them that they have to helped three other people in return. This strategy is called "Pay It Forward". The word Forward meaning instead of paying back the favour to the person who helped you (who has been helped before by others)they will find three other people to return the favour. They do not have to do it, but they will definitely want to do it, because they have been helped unselfishly and it truly is a pleasure to help without asking for any reward in return.
That I believe is the message of this movie. To be touched by someone who has helped you without asking anything in return, because the helper has also been touched by someone who helped him without asking for anything in return, and it goes on ad infinitum.
Is it really an attempt to create utopia? I believe that inside everyone, there is goodness, even in the most hardened heart, and we can unlock this beautiful person when we touch him, when we helped him when he is at a vulnerable point in his life, when he/she was truly crying out for help. 9/11 and the tsunami has shown that humanity is ready to emabrace this idea to alleviate pain and suffering and helped one another.
It is not about giving people fishes and making them dependent on us, it is also about teaching them how to fish for themselves. That is not the issue, the issue is doing something for others without any ulterior motive, because nobody is going to monitor you if you do not continue the idea of helping three people. There is something appealing about doing it out of a pure desire to help without asking for anything in return, simply because you have been on the receiving side before and you somehow have faith that the person that you have touched, is going to continue touching others, lighting one heart after another.
Remember, what goes around comes around. We reap what we sow.
Others compare this formula with pyramid selling or multi level marketing. Although the multiplying effect is similar, Pay it Forward is not similar in intent to pyramid or multi levelmarketing. There is no intention to benefit when one pays it forward.
Three cheers for Pay It Forward and three cheers for the movie Pay It Forward.
41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
What a pleasant surprise this movie was! I avoided seeing it for awhile because of so many negative or so-so reviews I'd read and also because a friend told me the book was "sentimental and corny". But the movie was very believable and I can't help thinking that the only people who could fail to be moved by it would have to be hard-core cynics. Haley Joel Osmont proves his acting chops yet again (after his acclaimed his role in Sixth Sense), playing a middle-school student named Trevor who has a troubled home life, an alcoholic mother and an erratic, wayward father. When his new teacher, played by the superb Kevin Spacey, gives an imaginative class assignment, daring the students to "change the world" Trevor takes his homework to a new extreme, changing not only his life but that of his teacher. While parts of this movie do challenge the viewer's ability to suspend belief and seem somewhat unreal, it is a rare treat to see such a trio of talented actors come together for such a worthy idea. Don't be surprised to find yourself reaching for the tissues while watching this movie. I came to it with negative preconceptions and reluctance and was surprisingly moved and heartened by watching it. This is one I plan to buy and add to my permanent collection, worth seeing again and again.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I've wanted to see this movie since I started to see the previews because I loved the premise. I think it's something that would truly change the world if it would only catch on. I was thrilled to see Haley Joel Osment playing such a role. He is a true "wunderkind" or perhaps an "Indigo Child" as they are often referred to today. He carries with him such an air of mystique and prophecy that I just know that his movies hold valuable messages for all of us. It surprises me that other reviewers couldn't focus long enough to realize that the sub-plots were all intended to connect via the "pay it forward" context, as we realize that Trevor's homework assignment has influenced people, events and places far beyond his own awareness. Yes, Helen Hunt looks like a witch, but she's playing an alcoholic -- they're rarely pretty, but often good-hearted. She's also a battered woman, and a brutally honest confrontation with Trevor's teacher forces her to question her self-destructive loyalty to the father of her son -- a loud and clear message to women who may be putting their children at risk by paying too much respect to fathers who don't deserve it. Even Trevor himself dreads his father's return, and father's rights advocates could benefit from the realization that sometimes children *don't* need fathers who hurt them and/or their mothers.
Paying it forward is about taking risks for others, risks that are hard, challenging, and scary. Trevor himself honors the courage it took his mother to forgive her mother for the childhood that caused her such pain. It takes courage -- and that is why the end is as powerful as it is. I won't spoil it, but I want to say that it was a statement that underscored the kind of courage it takes to change the world.
I wasn't too crazy about the final scenes, they were anti-climactic and stretched the point. Still, it was a beautiful story and if only we could all make the effort to "pay it forward" who knows what kind of difference we could make?
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2001
I don't know whether professional reviewers are jaded with life or just naturally cynical but they seem to dismiss far too many films as overly sentimental or contrived. "Pay It Forward" is an emotional film, it will make you cry but that does not make it corny. I am not suggesting you have to open your heart and close your mind to enjoy this film. All you need do is not close yourself off to your soul, because Mimi Leder's film has enough soul of its own for your's to recognize.
Based on a book by Catherine Ryan Hyde, which was unpublished when the script was written, "Pay It Forward", has now become a worldwide movement; and after seeing the film, that should come as no surprise. The story has no hint of religious denomination, nor does it try to preach at us but it nonetheless sends us out of the theatre wanting to do good, to try and make the world a little [better] for someone. It manages this miracle by taking a simple plot and peopling it with characters that are memorable, flawed and likable.
The cast is top class. Haley Joel Osment plays Trevor McKinney, the originator of the pay-it-forward idea. While the impact of his performance was not as great as it was in Sixth Sense, I think we can attribute that to higher expectations. Helen Hunt did make a big impression. As Trevor's Mother, Arlene, she makes Erin Brockovich look like a socialite. She is an alcoholic, single mother who works two Vegas jobs to pay the rent. In her spare time she makes and breaks promises to her son and occasionally allows her "Ex" back into the house, for a little drinking and abuse.
Trevor's seventh grade sociology teacher, Eugene Simonet, is played by Kevin Spacey. He is one of those quiet, thoughtful, caring teachers that sometimes inspire their students to great heights. At the same time, he is a man who is self-conscious about a disfiguring facial burn, to the point where he has settled for a life with little social interaction at all. He has his classroom and his tidy little home and his love of learning. Mr Simonet has long ago given up the hope for a lager life because hope grows more and more painful the longer it goes unrealized.
On the first day of school, Mr Simonet sets his class an extra-credit assignment for the year. They must, "Think of an idea to change our world - and put it into action!" Trevor takes this challenge to heart and develops an idea, which he soon tries to put into action. He plans to help three people. It must be something big, that they could not do for themselves. Those three are then encouraged to pay it forward by helping three other people, instead of trying to return the favor. In this way, Trevor hopes that the idea, and its good acts, will spread and grow. Sadly, he fails to successfully help even one person, despite pouring every effort into the project. But what he doesn't know is that he has helped more than it seems, and his idea is more infectious than he could have hoped.
We get to explore the cascade effects of pay-it-forward through the eyes of a freelance reporter, Chris Chandler, played with casual enthusiasm by Jay Mohr. At the start of the film we witness him receiving his helping hand and its pay-it-forward injunction. His interest stimulated, Chris sets off to track down the source of the movement. As he backtracks the trail, we switch back and forward in time, following Trevor as he tries to make his idea fly, all the time knowing, through Chris, that it must succeed.
This is a powerful story. The idea itself is wonderful but as a film, it rides on the fact that all of the major characters go through significant personal changes. In a way, Trevor is a modern day messiah. Where he goes, people repent and recover the best parts of themselves. He is not a grandiose figure, just a young boy who has a lot of faith, passion and persistence. We can all learn a lot from this film and remember, if it does affect you deeply, pay it forward.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2004
The chance that I watch this DVD was the purpose that extent the skill of my English listening. Because I heard that it was good for listening up to watch boys and girls movie.
But when I watched this DVD, the thinking that I had first changed, that is to say, I enjoyed the story honestly.
The movie is not used ellegant technique and superior computer graphics, but the story was very heartwarming. I always have self conciouseness, and I tend to think that it is important for me to move things in myself main. And the more I grow older, the more I have not the feeling that I help other persons.
But what devote myself to other men is important thing and if I am in the condition that can help other people, on the other hands, will mean what keep good condition of my mind, that is, even if I feel down, by helping other persons, the mind of myself may feel up too.
And the teacher of the main character of this movie have many knowledge and inteligent and perfect man in my first feeling, but he was troubled with the scars of his body. But by confessing the scars to a woman, he get over the trouble.
After all,the only way that can cure the scars of the mind will be by man, I think, can not cure by oneself.
To tell the truth, I have the scars of my body, I have been troubled for long years. But when I watched this movie, in the truth that have the same trouble even if that is fiction-story, I took the bravery, and some day I believe that I will be able to get over too.
After a long time, I met wonderful and heartwarming film.
Thank you for reading poor English.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2005
My daughter has raved about this for some time, I finally got around to watching it over this last holiday weekend. It's definately worth seeing, a good solid story, a bit sad, but well acted and the kind of movie that makes you think a bit.
I don't think it's something younger children would really get into, there are a bit of adult themes running through this, however older kids will be able to get the brain juices flowing and that's a good thing.
It's hard to go into the flick without giving something away, so I'll just say it's a bit of a Christology and worth seeing, there is some grown up drama shown, but it's a redemptive movie, inspite of the sad parts.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2001
...I'll give it three stars. Okay, let's see how many different issues this movie can address at once: 1. Alcoholism 2. Spousal Abuse 3. Dysfunctional Relationships 4. Morality 5. School Violence... and there's more, but that'd give away the plot (even though I'm sure it's already been given away). And so you have all these horrible issues clouded up in Haley's character's life, and yet he still tries to make a difference in the world. It's your classic "tear-jerking-feel-good" movie, and almost everything in this has been cliched. What I guess would make up for the kind of out-there storyline is the acting- Kevin Spacey's extreme talent really shines as his character. He does an excellent job of switching from a teacher to a guy with really no life. Helen Hunt, though I kind of have mixed feelings about her, does a very good protrayl of an abused spouse and alcoholic. Haley Joel Osment's done better, but, he still does a decent job. This movie is probably a bit darker than what you're expecting from the trailer, and I really wouldn't recommend it for people under 13. I'm sure if you're not as nit-picky as I am you'll thoroughly enjoy this.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) is in his first day as a Las Vegas middle-schooler (7th grade) and his class is introduced to their new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey). And it's quite a stunning introduction, because Mr. Simonet has visible scars that run up his neck and onto his face. Are they burn scars?
Mr. Simonet engages his class from day one by giving them an extra credit assignment that the students can do throughout the entire school year: think of a way to change the world and put it into practice. Most of the students see this as just teacher hype, but Trevor takes it literally and starts putting an idea into play; he decides to do three incredibly nice but difficult things to three separate people (strangers) and then ask them not to pay him back, but to "Pay It Forward." His first is to bring home a homeless man where his mother, Arlene McKinney (Helen Hunt) finds him and pretty much freaks out.
The second thing Trevor does is to try and get his teacher, Mr. Simonet, into a relationship with Arlene, Trevor's mother. And as this unfolds we begin to see more of this screwed up microcosm of souls. Trevor's mom works two jobs (one waiting tables at a strip club and the other as a change girl in a casino), is battling alcoholism, and is trying not to turn Trevor into a latchkey kid.
Mr. Simonet begins to fall in love with Arlene but holds back for reasons unknown. Do those scars go deeper than the surface?
Trevor's third "Pay It Forward" attempt is to help prevent a fellow student from being beat up by the school bullies all the time. And this event will play a pivotal and surprising role in the end of the film.
Can a kid really teach everyone to "Pay It Forward"?
There's an unforseen quality to this film that leaks out to the audience. After watching it with some friends, there were many differing takes on it:
"It's schmaltzy trash," one said.
"At least it's trying to get a valid message across without going into triteness," another commented.
"It's got too many religious overtones," someone else piped in.
"It had a lot of downers," said someone else.
"Really? I thought it was quite uplifting," said another.
As you can see from this cross section of comments, there's a lot going on in the film and I think this speaks pretty highly of how the message of the film (i.e., helping out strangers without any expectations of remuneration) was given to the viewer. This definitely is NOT a feel-good film. There's cursing and mild nudity and drug use and alcoholism and child abuse and even (gulp!) murder. But through these not-so-appealing items the film garners much of its strength.
And it's a message that really needs to be gotten across to humanity (especially around this time of the year ...which is to say, everyday).
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2002
PAY IT FORWARD is just one of those movies which makes you think about life, and how precious everything in your life truly is. Its one of those movies, which makes you realize how precious time is, and how every moment is a special one. As well, it shows you that even the smallest act of kindness can go a long way. Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osmont) is a young pre-teen who is in the 7th grade, and is given a Social Studies project, to do a certain task which will change the world. The project is meant to make him think about the world, but he takes it seriously and comes up with a one of a kind idea. If one person helps another three people, with something that is not an easy task, then those three people will have to help three people each the same way, and so on. The movie is a touching story about family and life. Haley Joel Osmont, Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey have all turned in EXCELLENT performances in this movie, its a must see, it will change the way you look at the world. Go rent it or buy it!