Pay It Forward (2000)
Main cast: Kevin Spacey (Eugene Simonet), Helen Hunt (Arlene McKinney), Haley Joel Osment (Trevor McKinney), Jay Mohr (Chris Chandler), James Caviezel (Jerry), Jon Bon Jovi (Ricki), and Angie Dickinson (Grace)
Director: Mimi Leder
If good is done to you, you do good to others, i.e. you pay it forward. That is the theme of this disgusting, manipulative cavity-inducing piece of schmo with one of the most blatant exploitation of a child actor's sad-face and tears after Shirley Temple grew up.
A lonely boy called Trevor lost his Daddy Ricki who is away to God knows where, and his mom Arlene is a drunkard. So he decides to matchmake her mother with his scarred, grumpy teacher Eugene. Meanwhile, Trevor starts a chain of good-deed events, starting with a homeless man Jerry, that soon evolves into people doing very sappy antics like helping strangers in life-or-death situations.
At first I cry. It's touching how Eugene and Arlene slowly learn to love again. But soon, I realize Arlene looks a lot like that smirky, self-conscious, overreacting Helen Hunt. And how Eugene just keep growling and growling as if he's trying to win Best Actor Award like Kevin Spacey. And poor Osment, who cries on cue, tears up when plot needs it, and whispers throatily, "I see dead people." Oops, the last one is from a different movie altogether.
The longer the movie is, the more cynical I become. Pay It Forward isn't content with just telling me a story, it wants to choke me in tears and make me wail my eyes out for poor, sensitive Trevor, sad misunderstood Eugene, and annoyingly neurotic Arlene. It wants me to hug my husband and sing We Are The World as we wave our lighters in the air and then dash off to save sick children around the world.
Noble sentiments, really, but after two hours, I find myself wanting to scream, "Stop trying to manipulate me, dammit!"
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