PAY IT FORWARD Add To My Top 10
Changing the World
Release Date: October 20, 2000
Audience: Teenagers & adults
Runtime: 124 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Mimi Leder
Executive Producer: Mary McLaglen & Jonathan Treisman
Writer: Leslie Dixon
Address Comments To:Barry A. Meyer, CEO
Warner Bros., Inc.
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522-0001
Phone: (818) 954-6000
A news reporter arrives on the scene of a hostage situation, where a woman is being held at gunpoint by a thug. Not long after, the thug makes a getaway with the woman by stealing her car, which slams into the reporter’s car. The police chase after the suspect and his hostage, while the reporter is left alone with his mangled car. At that point, a stranger walks up, handing the reporter the keys to his new Jaguar. Stunned, the reporter begins coming up with various scenarios as to why the man would simply give him his car. Finally, the man says, “Just pay it forward.”
A week later the reporter continues to question the man, though now convinced that the gift was sincere and not a prank. The man, a wealthy lawyer, finally tells the reporter how someone "paid it forward" to him. The idea is to repay a favor that is done for you to three other people instead of the person who did the favor for you. Sensing a story, the reporter decides to track the origins of "pay it forward."
The movie reveals that the idea started with Trevor McKinney (Osment of THE SIXTH SENSE), a boy whose Las Vegas schoolteacher (Spacey) assigns his students the task of “doing something to change the world.” Since it is the first day of school, many moans are heard throughout the classroom, but Trevor, after many questions, decides to give it a try. His home life is difficult, since only his mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt of DR. T & THE WOMEN and AS GOOD AS IT GETS), is trying to raise him while working two jobs. On top of this, she has a drinking problem and always takes in Trevor’s absentee father every time he promises to change.
One day, on his way home from school, Trevor passes by a homeless commune where he meets Jerry (James Caviezel of FREQUENCY), a man whose drug addiction has kept him homeless. Trevor lets Jerry take a shower and provides a place to sleep for him, eventually leading to Jerry being able to find a job. When Arlene, however, discovers Jerry in her garage fixing her old truck, she is startled and threatens him. When things finally calm down, she learns from Jerry about Trevor’s idea of “pay it forward.” She apologizes to Jerry, then heads to Trevor’s school to meet with his teacher, Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey), in order to get to the bottom of things. The meeting between the two is heated, much to Trevor’s dismay. Later, however, Trevor decides to play matchmaker and attempts to remedy the situation.
Trevor’s demeanor and his willingness to carry out “pay it forward” impress his teacher, Mr. Simonet. Not only is he amazed by Trevor’s persistence, but also at how the idea catches the imagination of others, becoming an inspiration not only to Trevor’s family but also to those around him.
PAY IT FORWARD is a well-written, redemptive gem that carries out a lofty idea in a realistic way. Though the directing is a bit weak, the acting by the veteran cast makes the plot come alive with fantastic character development. Interestingly enough, the ability of movies to provoke imitative behavior may work in a positive manner with this movie. The idea of paying a favor back by doing something for other people rather than the one who paid you the favor, is a reflection of what Christ has done for us. He has paid the price for our sins, and we, in turn, are to tell others this good news so that others may come to Him.
Regrettably, this otherwise moral PG-13 movie contains foul language, alcohol use and abuse, and implied fornication. Due to these elements, as well as some tense family scenes, most moral parents probably will want their younger children to avoid this movie and will want to be very cautious about letting their older children watch it.
PAY IT FORWARD is a well-written gem that carries out a lofty idea in a realistic way. Though the directing is weak, the acting by the veteran cast makes the plot come alive with fantastic character development. Interestingly enough, the ability of movies to provoke imitative behavior may work in a positive manner with this movie. The idea of paying a favor back by doing something for other people rather than the one who paid you the favor, is a reflection of what Christ has done for us. He has paid the price for our sins, and we, in turn, are to tell others this good news so that others may come to Him. Regrettably, this PG-13 movie contains foul language, alcohol abuse and implied fornication. Due to these elements, as well as some tense family scenes, MOVIEGUIDE® recommends caution for older children.