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Pay It Forward

A movie directed by Mimi Leder

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Pay it Forward

  • Nov 30, 2010
  • by
(*some spoilers scattered through review*)

I was forced to watch this several times in my youth and people always told me "Oh, Stephanie, it's a feel good movie, it'll inspire you". Well, people, it was not a feel-good movie at all. I was lied to. The only good thing about it was that it was fairly well-acted and that it had Jon Bon Jovi in it.

The movie covers several storylines all having to do with "pay it forward", which is a rather poorly-thought-out and overly utopian concept that doesn't take into account human nature and greed.

One of the storylines is about a boy named Trevor (played well by Haley Joel Osment) who is in Kevin Spacey's social studies class and tries to change the world or "pay it forward" for extra credit. He helps a bum named Jared (played equally well by Jim Caviezel) by giving him money to move into a motel and get a job. This appears unsuccessful, so Trevor sets his sights towards helping his unhappy teacher by setting him up with his mom.

His mom, Arlene (played by Helen Hunt) is a stripper/casino worker who is raising Trevor by himself and she happens to be an alcoholic. You may be thinking "Oh my God, his mother is a stripper and his father is Jon Bon Jovi, this kid has it bad". Well, that is one of the ways that this movie is overly sentimental and overly emotionally manipulative.

His actions seem to spread, and it leads us to our unbelievably sappy and manipulative ending that left me incredibly pissed off as opposed to sad, like the music and actions of Spacey and Hunt tell me to be. Why did the kid have to die? The movie could have gone on without him dying and ended on a happy or triumphant note as opposed to bittersweet. By bittersweet, i mean a bunch of people hold a candlelight vigil in Arlene's front yard for Trevor.

Is this movie bad? Absolutely, but it had good intentions and you can't blame the creators for trying. It's fairly well acted by Spacey, Hunt, Osment, and even Bon Jovi. In terms of everything else, it's way too emotionally manipulative and lulls the audience into a false sense of security only to have the kid die at the end and everyone be sad. So all of the people that told me it was a feel good movie are dead wrong, it did not make me feel good at all.

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December 01, 2010
Never seen this one, sounds like I should stay away.
More Pay It Forward reviews
Quick Tip by . May 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
An excellent movie which is bound to make you sob til the very end! The best of Hollywood! One that inspires and lift up the human spirit!
review by . June 26, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: .....     Cons: .....     The Bottom Line: _______________     After submitting a review for the GLBT Pride Month write-off, it occurred to me I am constantly thinking about this film. It would be silly of me to say this was widely accepted by the EPS community, in fact I read more detrimental comments/reviews than good.      Perhaps the main reason the movie was booed is because it’s a thinkin’ movie. …
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Member Since: Nov 29, 2010
Last Login: Apr 23, 2012 10:20 PM UTC
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About this movie


Pay It Forward is a 2000 American dramatic film based on the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

An 11-year-old schoolboy in Las VegasNevada named Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) is given a class project to complete by his social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey), a man with terrible burn scars on his face and neck. His task is to come up with a plan that will change the world through direct action. On his way home from school later that day, Trevor notices a homeless man, Jerry (James Caviezel) and decides to make a difference in Jerry's life. Trevor then comes up with the plan to "pay it forward" by doing a good deed for three people who must in turn each do good deeds for three other people, creating a charitable pyramid scheme. Trevor's plan is to help Jerry by feeding and housing him so he can "get on his feet."

The next morning, Trevor's mother, Arlene McKinney (Helen Hunt), a single mother recovering from alcoholism, becomes angry with Trevor after finding Jerry in their house. She then accuses and confronts Eugene at the school about the reason Trevor has allowed Jerry into their home. Eugene is also intrigued by Trevor's response to the social studies project.

Later that night back at their home, Trevor confronts his mother about her alcoholism, and in a fit of anger she slaps him across the face. ...

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Director: Mimi Leder
Genre: Drama
Release Date: October 20, 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: May 15, 2001
Runtime: 2hrs 2min
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