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Warner Brothers
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Director: Mimi Leder

Producers: Peter Abrams, Paddy Carson, Robert L. Levy, Steven Reuther

Written by: Leslie Dixon; book by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt, Jon Bon Jovi, Jay Mohr, James Caviezel

Rating: ***.5 out of 5

Kindness is an undervalued commodity in todayís world, at least thatís what society is telling us, so what better way to remedy this societal belief wrought in cynicism than with a school project. Well, thatís the thought of Trevor McKinney (Osment_ an idealistic schoolboy who hopes his scheme of "paying It forward" will sweep the nation quicker than a Tickle-Me-Elmo-Furby hybrid.

The story is traced around the country by reporter Chris Chandler (Mohr), hoping to discover his first Dateline/Newsweek/Time cover story. Heís mysteriously given a Jaguar by a high-flying executive, and when the man asks for nothing in return but for the Pay It Forward system to carry on, Chandler becomes curious and determined to find the origin of the societal marvel.

The scheme begins when Trevor decides to help out three people with monumental acts of kindness. These three are: a homeless man, his mother, and his schoolteacher (the inventor of the assignment). The boy struggles with the harsh realities of the world, as his acts of kindness seem to result in dead ends. After helping out a homeless man (Caviezel) Trevor discovers the vagrant has gone back to his substance abusing ways, and after setting up his mother (Hunt) with his teacher (Spacey), he realizes that love may not blossom.

Although the plan seems to have stumbled before making it out of the starting blocks, Trevorís ideals begin seeping into the consciousness of those around him. The realization of seizing the day and doing things for others is beautifully played out in the relationship between Simonet, the teacher, (who resembles Mel Gibson in THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE both in appearance and in actions) and Arlene, Trevorís abused mother. The two dance around each other in a series of socially awkward, emotionally stunted dates, and soon begin to open themselves to the kindness they may find in each otherís arms.

PAY IT FORWARD is an emotionally draining movie. Every line is made to reduce the audience to a blubbering mess, and it does so in a wonderfully cathartic manner. However, once out of the movie-going element, cynicism begins to creep in, and the hokeyness factor may also rear its ugly head. The Hollywood nature of any mass-produced movie such as PAY IT FORWARD seems to taint the truly honorable intentions of its message, and with that, one could leave the movie with a sense of emotional manipulation.

Osment is as always wonderful as the self-aware young boy, and Academy Award™ winners Hunt and Spacey delve into a sea of emotions during the course of the movie. The acting is superb, and combined with this morally uplifting concept, PAY IT FORWARD is definitely worthy of Oscar™ buzz. The only dark cloud in the movie is the appearance of Jon Bon Jovi as Trevorís abusive father, who has deservedly not earned any credibility as an actor. Every time he appears on the screen itís hard to hold back from thinking about a spontaneous verse of "Living on A Prayer" coming from his mouth.

PAY IT FORWARD is cinematic hot chocolate. It makes you feel warm inside, and for a while, youíre immune to the harshness of the outside world ó well at least until you step out of the theater.

ó Priti Ubhayakar

HYBRID Ratings Guide:

***** Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

**** Itís worth a full-price ticket.

*** Itís worth a matinee ticket.

** Wait for video rental.

* Check out the video from the library, if you must.

0 While I would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

Mike Doughty

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