Pay it Forward (2000)

(On TV, June 2015) A weepy emotionally-manipulative ludicrous drama is already bad, but a weepy emotionally-manipulative ludicrous drama with a terrible ending is much, much worse.  I actually could have lived with Pay it Forward’s central conceit –a young teenager creating a self-reinforcing wave of generosity that sweeps the nation.  (In this age of social media, you can completely imagine #payitforward as a viral week-long sensation.)  It’s all meant to be Highly Dramatic, although some of the sting is taken off through a non-chronological structure that works as a mystery.  Adapted from a novel, Pay it Forward is obviously meant to appeal to the same kind of people who put up inspirational quotes all over their social media feed.  And that’s fine –everyone deserves stories meant for them.  For the rest of us cynics, though, Pay it Forward can be so manipulative as to be repellent.  And that’s before we get to the terrible ending, which throws its protagonist under the bus in order to make everything even more Dramatic and Meaningful.  Ah well; whatever.  At least Haley Joel Osment, Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt (in a thoroughly un-glamorized role) all get something to play, and moralizing do-gooders everywhere get a film they can enjoy.  If only it wasn’t for that ending, that truly awful ending…

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