‘Pay it Forward’ (2000)



I have read a few books before watching their film counterpart, but there are even fewer books that I read after the movie has already been released. Sounds silly, since the books are typically better than the movie, but it’s true. One of the books I read after watching the movie was “Pay it Forward“, yes the book is better, but I will review the movie as its own entity as I always do.

11 year-old Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) was just given a year-long social studies assignment from his teacher, Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey). The assignment read “Think of an idea to charge our world, and put it into action.” Already, Trevor is forced to maturity where kids his age normally aren’t as his alcoholic mother (Helen Hunt) is never home. So he decides to take the assignment seriously and take home a homeless man (Jim Caviezel). That was only part one of his plan.

In case you don’t already know how to “pay it forward”, it works like this: you pick three people that really need help, and you help them in a way they cannot help themselves, they then are not allowed to pay you back. Instead they must do the same thing to three other people, which expands three-fold every time. So that was his plan, and even when he thinks its falling apart, it wasn’t.

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The story is solid and very original. It had such an impact on the real world that I remember specifically of different charities that attempted to mimic everything that happened in the movie, in hopes that the movement would grow as it did in the film. Unfortunately, that was a lot more quiet than it would have wanted to be, because whether we would like to believe it or not, we don’t have enough good people in this world to make as big of a difference as this movie did. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that this movie is incredibly inspirational.

In the book, Kevin Spacey’s character was black and burnt, and I mean burnt bad. Now I don’t compare movies to their book counterparts, so I won’t even comment on the black aspect, because his race played no part in the movie. What I will comment on, is what I specifically remember thinking the first time I saw this, as well as my most recent viewing. I could not even tell that he was burnt other than a few faded scars here and there ad a missing eyebrow. His story on how he received the scars should have at least made the scars a little more life threatening. Instead, it ends up feeling a little whiny on Kevin Spacey’s part.

The acting is actually brilliant all around, save for one performance by a minor character that “paid it forward” towards the beginning of the movie. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you watch it, it’s like “where did they get this guy?”. For the rest of the cast, everything is very well done.

For the most part, the movie is slow, but intriguing, and sad, but memorable. I honestly cannot say why RottenTomaotes has this film locked down at 40% rotten. It is anything but a rotten movie. According to some reviews, the movie had a bad ending. It’s ending was absolutely necessary to get its incredibly important message out to the world. Not everything can have a fairytale ending. So is the movie underrated? Absolutely. I wouldn’t say it’s 100% by any means, but I would call it fresh in a heartbeat. If you haven’t seen the movie, I do highly recommend it.

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