Dave's Rating:


… rac[es] at 100 miles an hour …

Who's in It: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe, Dan Castellaneta, Takayo Fischer

The Basics: Down and out — but brilliant — Chris Gardner (Will Smith) wants to be a stockbroker. So he pulls himself up by his bootstraps and does it, all the while struggling — and really, "struggling" is a laugh of a word to describe the brain-numbing suffering this man has to overcome — to raise his young son. It's so inspirational that the real Gardner (now a Big Deal millionaire) was already on Oprah talking all about it. She loves stuff like that.

What's the Deal? If you've ever seen What's Up Doc?, you'll remember how that movie was just one insane set-up after another — mishaps, fires, impossible situations, people running around like madmen, obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. And that was what made it funny. Now imagine that movie's booby-traps, only make them all about despair and financial ruin and homelessness and fear. That's this movie, a screwball comedy of misery and flat-broke anxiety attacks, racing at 100 miles an hour on foot with no shoes.

"Based on a True Story:" When a movie begins with those words, that's code for "None of This Actually Happened." But if even 30 percent of it played out in real life like it does in this movie, then someone needs to give the real Gardner a medal. Smith's character is like a superhuman masochistic machine of parental devotion. Like they must have cut out the scene where he screams to the universe, "Oh, yeah? Is that all you got? Stack that deck a little higher!" You wonder when they're going to bring out the shards of glass and hot coals for him to dance on while he breezily raps "Girls Ain't Nothin' But Trouble."

Richter Scale of How Vicariously Exhausted You'll Be After Watching This Movie: 9.6

And Tori Spelling Had to Audition to Get on 90210, Too: I have this evil fantasy that Jaden Smith would get nominated for an Oscar but his dad wouldn't. Then he'd win like Tatum O'Neal, creating a life-long family rift. But that's not going to happen here.


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