Pursuit Of Happyness

It was beautiful outside Saturday. Another mild and sunny December day and another day closer to spring. We decided to go to the movies.

Actually, it’s not as simple as that. I proposed dinner and a movie, which would have worked, except Helaine remembered the Cowboys-Falcons game was on tonight.

Please – hold your jealousy. I did win the marriage lottery.

We caught a 4:25 showing of Pursuit of Happyness, the new Will Smith film. Actually, 4:25 was the announced time. The movie started 15 minutes later – no exaggeration!

Enough with the commercials. Haven’t I already paid to see the movie?

By now you probably know, but “Happyness” is spelled as it is because of an inscription on a wall seen in the movie. But the actual concept, “pursuit of happiness” (as in life, liberty and the pursuit of…) is what drives the movie’s lead character, played by Will Smith.

He philosophizes about Jefferson’s reasons for framing happiness in this way in a series of disembodied voice overs.

Smith plays San Franciscan Chris Gardner – a man smarter and more motivated than his position in life would indicate. The movie chronicles Gardner’s struggle to succeed while maintaining a centered life for his son.

It’s ‘based’ on a true story. That’s another way of saying it isn’t a true story. Hollywood takes many liberties between reality and celluloid. Many of the crises faced by Smith’s character were one or two notches too tough to ring true.

Helaine cried through much of the final moments. I cried a little at the very end. As the movie ended, applause nearly broke out. It ended up being a unrequited smattering.

Helaine was definitely more satisfied with what was on the screen than I was. It was just too depressing for too long.

Sure, I knew a Will Smith Christmas release was going to end happy. It just took too long to get there.

Other than Will Smith, who did a fine job, three performances need mentioning.

Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, Smith’s 8 year son, plays his son on screen. There were lines to be delivered and emotions to be portrayed. That’s tough for most 8 year olds. In his case, the performance was effortless and believable. I have no problem with this ‘vanity casting.’

Dan Castellaneta was one of Smith’s bosses. There was nothing to make him stand out, except… Hello… this is Homer Simpson! Castellaneta is the guy who made “d’oh” a household word.

Why bother with a little, inconsequential, part like this?

Finally, James Karen played Smith’s big boss at the brokerage firm. Fine actor. Good portrayal. You’ve seen him a thousand times in films and TV, even if you don’t know the name.

But, isn’t this the guy who was the Pathmark man for a few decades&#185? I tried to put that aside.

Score this movie a big hit for Helaine and OK, but too slow and depressing for me. It was nice to see Will Smith in a serious role. That wasn’t enough.

&#185 – It is.

Hitch – The Movie

I took Helaine on a date this afternoon. The idea was a romantic movie… I know, 3:30 PM, how romantic could it be?

We headed down to North Haven to see “Hitch,” the new movie with Will Smith and Kevin James. More on that in a minute.

I wanted coffee, but I felt it would be uncool to bring a container of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (my favorite) into the theater – plus, I had seen coffee there before.

Bzzzz. Wrong! No coffee.

Instead, I ended up paying $4 for a large Diet Pepsi. $4! A 2-liter bottle costs 99&#162.

I admit it. I am the fool here. I’m the one who paid the $4… and didn’t get my coffee to boot.

On the other hand, though movie tickets now cost $9.50, we got ours for $6. This is one of those strange, hidden benefits of being a AAA member. Yes, you have to buy them in advance, but they don’t go bad (or if they do, they do it slowly enough that it’s never been a problem).

The newspaper said the movie was scheduled to start at 3:30. Not quite. Between a few commercials, promos and coming attractions, it didn’t get starting until sometime after 3:45 PM.

Hitch is the story of Will Smith, a relationship counselor. He takes hapless schlemiels, like I was when I was single, and gives them the advice necessary to meet the woman of their dreams.

His clients are sweet and earnest, though not classic catches. He is principled – the unexpected attribute for someone in that line of work, and the pivotal element creating the emotional tension that carries the movie.

Ask me what Will Smith does for a living? He is charming for a living. Sure, he acts… but he’s always acting as Will Smith being charming. There is a very good living doing that – obviously. And, quite honestly, it is a role I enjoy seeing.

His main pupil through the film is Kevin James, an accountant in love with a beautiful heiress who is a client of his firm. He lives a life where they are physically near each other, but she never see him.

In this movie, Kevin James was my surprise. I know he’s a comedian, has a successful sitcom (which I’ve never watched), and does a pretty good Jackie Gleason. He was very good.

Kevin James strongest point, was he never overwhelmed the character he played. It was never over the top. This was a nice guy, a good guy, not a beautiful guy.

His restrained physical comedy combined with his timing and interplay with Will Smith are what made the movie for me.

Smith and James love interests, Eva Mendes and Amber Valletta, are pretty and appropriate, but it’s the two guys and New York City that carry the weight here. New York is an integral part of the story and I am glad to see it playing itself instead of seeing Toronto or Vancouver as some wimpy New York wannabe.

The city was portrayed with the same kind of loving charm that Woody Allen brought to Annie Hall and Manhattan.

Even at 4:30 in the afternoon, this was a great date movie. We both loved it. It will be huge at the box office.

Blogger’s note – This is entry 1,000 in my blog. It is a milestone I never thought about… never expected. Thanks again for stopping by to read my words and thoughts.