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"PAY IT FORWARD"
(2000) (Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Heavy Moderate Extreme Moderate Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None Minor *None Moderate
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Minor Extreme Heavy Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: An 11-year-old hopes that his progressive, pyramid-like scheme of getting people to help others will make his and his mother's lives better.
PLOT:
Trevor McKinney (HALEY JOEL OSMENT) is a smart and thoughtful, 11-year-old kid who lives in a blue-collar neighborhood of Las Vegas. His mother, Arlene (HELEN HUNT), is an alcoholic and often works double shifts to make ends meet, while his recovering alcoholic father, Ricki (JON BON JOVI), hasn't been seen for months.

As such, Trevor's future doesn't seem bright, but that changes on his first day of school when he meets his new social studies teacher, Eugene Simonet (KEVIN SPACEY). An intellectual who likes to challenge his students, Eugene sports physical scars that mask deeper, more emotional wounds, yet he hopes that one student might bite on his class assignment idea that one person can have an impact upon and maybe even change the world.

That student is Trevor, and he comes up with the progressive, pyramid-like scheme of "Pay It Forward." In it, one person will help three others with something they couldn't achieve on their own, and those people will then each do the same to three others who will then continue the growing trend.

With Arlene either at work or passed out drunk, Trevor decides to begin his scheme by helping Jerry (JAMES DAVIEZEL), a homeless heroin addict. Recognizing his success, Trevor then decides that the two other people he'll help will be his mom and Mr. Simonet. As this occurs, we flash back and forth between a subplot involving Chris Chandler (JAY MOHR), a reporter from Los Angeles who benefits from a stranger's generosity and is intrigued by the man's statement that he was just "paying it forward."

Smelling an incredible human-interest story, Chris begins tracking and tracing such acts backwards, eventually encountering characters as diverse as Sidney (DAVID RAMSEY), a streetwise petty thief and Grace (ANGIE DICKINSON), an older alcoholic who lives out of her car. As Chris draws ever closer to the source of Pay It Forward, Trevor hopes that his multi-tiered quest will make both his and his mother's lives better.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they're fans of anyone in the cast, they just might, but it doesn't seem likely that most preadolescents will want to see it.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For mature thematic elements including substance abuse/recovery, some sexual situations, language and brief violence.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • KEVIN SPACEY plays a middle school social studies teacher who hopes that one of his students might take him up on his challenge to better the world. Sporting physical scars that mask deeper, emotional wounds and belying his classroom demeanor, he turns out be afraid of change due to a past that still haunts him. He does end up sleeping with Arlene and does some cussing.
  • HELEN HUNT plays an alcoholic mother whose addiction undermines her efforts to care for her son. A former domestic abuse victim, she does some cussing and tries to confront the various demons that haunt her. She ends up sleeping with Eugene.
  • HALEY JOEL OSMENT plays her 11-year-old son who hopes that his scheme of helping others will make his and his mother's lives better, especially since he has a strained relationship with her and an estranged one with his father. He uses a few cuss words.
  • JAY MOHR plays a reporter who tries to track down the origins of the Pay It Forward scheme. He also does a little bit of cussing.
  • ANGIE DICKINSON plays an older alcoholic who's estranged from her father and lives in her car.
  • JAMES CAVIEZEL plays a homeless junkie who benefits from Trevor's kindness.
  • JON BON JOVI plays Arlene's belligerent and abusive husband (a recovering alcoholic) who returns to his old ways after trying to move back in with his estranged family.
  • DAVID RAMSEY plays a petty criminal who does some cussing and benefits from the passed down repercussions of Trevor's plan.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated drama. A mother has her 11-year-old son's social studies teacher sleep over in their home (it's implied that they have sex after we see the beginnings of them fooling around) and it's briefly mentioned that she's engaged in casual sex in the past. Various women are scene in various levels of revealing clothing.

    Profanity consists of at least 25 "s" words, while other expletives and colorful phrases are also used (with some of the cussing briefly coming from the 11-year-old boy). That boy's mother is an alcoholic, his estranged father is a recovering alcoholic, another woman is an alcoholic and two men are full/part-time drug users. Some of that leads to various tense family scenes and comments about domestic abuse, and we see the physical (burn scars) and emotional aftermath of one such incident from the past. As such, various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes.

    Violence consists of a kid being stabbed in the chest, and then bleeding and dying (the latter occurring off screen), while the opening scene revolves around a hostage situation at gunpoint. Weapons are used in various other fashions in the film and some other non-lethal violence also occurs. Some of those scenes may be tense and/or unsettling for some viewers. Should you still be concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone in your home who wishes to see it, we suggest that you more closely examine our detailed content listings for specific examples of what occurs in the film.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • We see some men standing by a fence drinking beer.
  • Some people in a club drink shots and want Arlene, their waitress, to join them, but she declines their offer.
  • We learn that Arlene is an alcoholic when she goes out into the garage and retrieves a bottle of liquor she had stashed in the washer and then drinks directly from it. Trevor later finds her passed out in bed with the bottle next to her and empties what's left of it into the sink.
  • We see that Jerry is a junkie when Arlene spots the track marks on his arm. Later, when Trevor goes to see him, we see that Jerry is high (and he won't go out to see Trevor).
  • Arlene ransacks her house looking for any stashed booze. She eventually finds a bottle, takes a swig, but then spits it out.
  • Chris acts like he's going to blackmail a Governor's aide by mentioning some discarded needles present at a party/function.
  • Grace is an alcoholic and we see her drinking booze straight from the bottle several times.
  • Sidney briefly smokes a joint.
  • Arlene tells Eugene that she normally can't take off her shirt in front of a guy unless she has several beers in her.
  • We learn that Ricki is a former alcoholic.
  • Chris brings bottles of booze for Grace as a bribe to get her to talk and she takes a swig from one of them.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Eugene has burn scars on much of his lower face and later we see some very severe burn scars on his chest.
  • We see a man in an emergency room with some blood on his arm.
  • We see some red/swollen track marks on Jerry's arm.
  • We see blood come out of a knife wound to the chest (from under some clothing) and later see another person with blood on their shirt.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • An unidentified kidnaper/assailant obviously has both for holding his gun to a woman during the film's opening scene.
  • Some school kids pick on a smaller kid, doing the same again later and then to Trevor.
  • A student is purposefully late to Eugene's class.
  • Arlene lies to Trevor about her drinking.
  • A man tries to pick up Trevor at a bus station, briefly caressing his face (but Eugene stops him and nothing else happens).
  • Sidney tries to take credit for the Pay It Forward idea, and we then see a flashback to the moment when he first encountered it. During this, we see him break into a store and steal a boom box.
  • Arlene eventually has Eugene spend the night with her while Trevor sleeps in the next room.
  • We learn that Ricki abused Arlene in the past, and once he returns back into her life, he's belligerent once again toward her and Trevor.
  • Although we don't see any flashback to the incident, Eugene tells a story of when he was sixteen and confronted his father who was abusive to his mother. He then states that his father hit him with a two by four, dragged him around the house, poured gasoline onto his body and then joyfully lit him on fire.
  • A kid stabs and kills another kid.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" and "Tense Family Scenes" may also be unsettling or tense to some viewers.
  • Jerry finds a woman who's about to commit suicide by jumping from a bridge. As she stands on a railing, we see a view from above her, showing how high above the body of water she really is (that might be unsettling to some viewers, but she ultimately doesn't jump).
  • Although we don't see any flashback to the incident, Eugene tells a story of when he was sixteen and confronted his father who was abusive to his mother. He then states that his father hit him with a two by four, dragged him around the house, poured gasoline onto his body and then joyfully lit him on fire.
  • Chris nearly runs over Trevor on his bike.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns: Seen in a hostage situation where a kidnaper/assailant breaks a window with his gun and then holds it on a woman, while police outside aim their guns at the house in which this is occurring.
  • Knife: Smuggled by some kids into school and later used during a scuffle to stab someone.
  • Handgun: Used by Sidney to get a nurse's attention to help a young girl who's suffering from an asthma attack.
  • Shotgun: Used by Arlene to confront Jerry.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Bullsh*t," "Why do you give me all this sh*t?" "Sh*thole," "Heavy ass sh*t," "You're a freak," "Nuts" (crazy), "Fag," "We're screwed," "Moron," "Piss me off," "Skinny ass," "Everything sucks," "Rat bastard," "D*ckhead," "Nigger" (said by Sidney to Chris), "Bitch," "Lying ass bitch," "You're damn right," "You look like crap," "Dried up, crusty ass," "Crapped out" and "Jeez."
  • Some kids smuggle a knife into school and around the security point metal detectors.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A minor bit of suspenseful music plays in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None that we heard, but a song playing in a club contained lyrics we couldn't completely understand, so there's the possibility something objectionable could have been in it.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 25 "s" words, 1 slang term using male genitals ("d*ck"), 10 asses (1 used with "hole"), 2 craps, 2 damns, 2 S.O.B.s, 1 hell, 3 uses each of "G-damn" and "Oh my God," 2 each of "Christ" and "My God" and 1 use each of "For God's sakes," "God," "Jesus," "Oh God" and "Oh Jesus" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Trevor briefly sees a couple making out at his school.
  • We see some scantily clad dancers in the club where Arlene works (doing some stripper type dancing and moves). While no nudity is present, they are bra/bikini-like tops and short shorts. We then see Arlene wearing a bra/bikini-like top that shows lots of cleavage.
  • Arlene shows cleavage in various other outfits she wears.
  • Chris jokes with a man who gave him his car and asks what if he picks up some hookers and drives down to Mexico with them. He then states that his wife (or ex-wife) is in a lesbian relationship (joking or not).
  • Arlene tells Eugene that she's not "doing a bunch of skanky guys" (having sex with them) instead of seeing her son.
  • We see Arlene in her bra as she gets ready for a date.
  • Sidney briefly and mistakenly thinks that Grace wants to have sex/fool around with him, and he's disgusted by the thought.
  • Arlene's AA sponsor asks her whether she's ever gotten to know someone before going to bed with them. Arlene then shrugs and asks if that's bad.
  • At the end of a date, Arlene asks Eugene if he wants to come into her house and stay for the night. He declines the offer. They then briefly make out, but he stops and then leaves.
  • Arlene later tells Eugene that she normally can't take off her shirt in front of a guy unless she has several beers in her, but that she wants to do so (without the beer) with him.
  • We see Arlene and Eugene fooling around on her bed, with her on top of him (both are still clothed). She then removes her top (we don't see anything), he unbuttons his shirt, they kiss and he rolls her over onto her side. It's then implied that they sleep together.
  • Eugene and Arlene make out at school.
  • SMOKING
  • Arlen's AA sponsor smokes once.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Trevor and Arlene have a strained son/mother relationship, as he's often mad at her for lying to him about various things. At one point, he states that he hates everything about her, she then smacks him and he tries to run away from home.
  • Arlene states that her husband left months ago and that she doesn't know where he is.
  • We later learn that Ricki used to beat Arlene while drunk (Trevor tells Eugene this and that he's worried his father will return home).
  • Although we don't see any flashback to the incident, Eugene tells a story of when he was sixteen and confronted his father who was abusive to his mother. He then states that his father hit him with a two by four, dragged him around the house, poured gasoline onto his body and then joyfully lit him on fire.
  • Ricki acts belligerently toward Arlene and Trevor, eventually causing Arlene to order him out of the house.
  • We learn that Arlene and her mother have a strained/tenuous relationship.
  • A mother grieves over his son's death.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Trevor's idea of Pay It Forward and other such pyramid-like schemes.
  • Alcoholism and alcoholics.
  • Domestic abuse and how victims (such as wives) often forgive the abuser and then simply keep the cycle repeating.
  • Although we don't see any flashback to the incident, Eugene tells a story of when he was sixteen and confronted his father who was abusive to his mother. He then states that his father hit him with a two by four, dragged him around the house, poured gasoline onto his body and then joyfully lit him on fire.
  • VIOLENCE
  • We see someone break a window with their gun that they then hold to a woman during a hostage standoff. As police aim their guns at the house in which this occurs, the garage door suddenly opens and a truck comes speeding down the driveway, smashing into Chris' car, before driving away.
  • Sidney is adamant about a nurse admitting someone before him in the emergency room and pulls out a gun and fires it several times into the floor to get his point across. We then see police dragging him away.
  • Arlene holds a shotgun on Jerry when she finds him in her garage.
  • Arlene smacks Trevor after he says that he hates most everything about her.
  • After spotting a man trying to pick up Trevor in a bus station (and caressing his face), Eugene slams this man into a bathroom and we then hear sounds of violence coming from the bathroom (Eugene beating that man up).
  • In a flashback, we see Sidney break a store window to steal a boom box.
  • Some school bullies pick on a smaller kid and then toss him into a trash dumpster.
  • We see some brief, professional wrestling violence on TV.
  • Although we don't see any flashback to the incident, Eugene tells a story of when he was sixteen and confronted his father who was abusive to his mother. He then states that his father hit him with a two by four, dragged him around the house, poured gasoline onto his body and then joyfully lit him on fire.
  • Due to the print catching on fire at the beginning of this scene (no kidding), some details may be missing about the following: Some kids pick on another kid, knocking him from his bike. They briefly struggle and one then stabs the victim in the chest (resulting in a bloody and then fatal wound).



  • Reviewed October 7, 2000 / Posted October 20, 2000

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