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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Pursuit of Happiness
Pursuit of Happiness
MTI // Unrated // May 20, 2003
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted June 17, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Movie: The biggest problems most so-called "romantic comedies" have are that they are either too romantic, unfunny, or the leads share no chemistry. Recently, I saw a mainstream moderate hit, Two Weeks Notice, that showed how a big budget but two leads that had nothing going on with one another flopped as a romantic comedy. I like the genre but just wish more releases within it showed better insights into the human condition or even just showed a better chemistry between the leads. Luckily, I caught a glimpse of a small independent movie that proved a small budget doesn't have to mean a lousy release, Pursuit Of Happiness.

The movie takes a look at a guy, Alan (Frank Whaley), who loses his girlfriend, is about to lose his job, and seems to have a knack for hooking up with women that are not good for him. It also shows his blood brother, Marissa (Annabeth Gish), that he's known since he was 5 years old, stumble in her own relationships, obviously wishing the two could've hooked up years ago. While the two seem perfect for one another to everyone except Alan, he seems to seek out the young, immature types and often gets Marissa's help in doing so. The movie ends on a positive note, even though he moves away and she stays, but the journey is a fun watch.

I thought the leads shared a lot of chemistry and that made it enjoyable to watch but the supporting cast were also very well placed in their roles. Whaley's typical dopey persona shined here as did Gish's frustrated with her life character. That the circumstances were written in a realistic manner, with just enough realism to make us identify with what's going on but enough embellishment to make the situations seem almost otherworldly, helped keep my attention. I was unfamiliar with the director until watching the behind the scenes footage and that's when it hit me who he was-an actor in a great many roles over the years who's also the son of Jean Stapleton (of Archie Bunker fame) who had a small but amusing role here too.

The story itself didn't fall into the trap of being too sappy and that helped make this one rise above the average genre flick. Sometimes a bit bittersweet in how it looked at both leads, and even a bit too cynical in it's dealing with some characters, it also balanced out with the supporting casts personal motivations as being independent of the leads (something overlooked more often than not). In all, I Recommend this one as a personal favorite of the week.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.85:1 ratio Widescreen and looked clear with only minimal print flaws on an irregular basis and some minor grain. The transfer looked solid as well and there didn't appear to be any compression artifacts. I wouldn't have guessed it was a pretty low budget independent by looking (or listening) to it.

Sound: The audio was in stereo with some separation of the channels and in English with optional Spanish subtitles. The music and vocals were clear and crisp.

Extras: The best extra was the audio commentary with the Director and a line producer. They talked about a variety of aspects of the movie, including technical matters, cast comments, and a whole lot of things that movie buffs might appreciate more than average viewers. The nest best extra was a series of deleted scenes-some of which were really interesting. The lengthy behind the scenes feature tracked the entire production from the opening party to the end of production. The other extras were trailers and cast biographies. Pretty good package here.

Final Thoughts: Okay, I liked this one based on all the factors previously listed: the actors and their performances, the technical matters, the extras, and the way the story was handled. It's worth getting if you like more realistic romantic comedies that have all the elements needed, if a bit imperfectly balanced. It was far better than most contemporary, bigger budget, romantic comedies although it also handled the dramatic aspects well too. Recommended!

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