Pay It Forward

Director: Mimi Leder

I really, really, really wanted to like this adaptation of the popular novel. Not only is it filled with Academy Award winners and nominees, but it’s also the story of a young kid who, due to an inspiring teacher (Kevin Spacey), sets out to change the world by urging others to do three big favors for strangers and instead of saying thank you, paying it forward with more kindness. The problem is that it’s never quite convincing. Spacey is good as usual--the old actor standby who could motivate anyone with the sound of his voice reading names out of a phone book—however shacking him up with an uneducated, struggling alcoholic cocktail waitress (Helen Hunt, extremely miscast) and choosing Haley Joel Osment to portray the good-hearted but admittedly white trash youth just doesn’t gel and we never quite forget the stars themselves as we try to buy into the story. There are great monologues throughout—some scenes are filled with the kinds of moments actors love—but then again it’s bogged down by its intentions, by the filmmakers forcing agendas down our throats like cough syrup and, not quite sure it’s working, finally piling on a forced tearjerker ending so manipulative that it famously offended film critic Lisa Schwarzbaum to such an extent that she revealed it in her review of the film in "Entertainment Weekly."