Generally favorable reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36
  1. 100
    The tough beauty of the picture is that it lets each viewer weigh the costs and benefits to Gardner. It's a genuinely transporting inspirational movie because it's also a cautionary tale. It doesn't downplay the hero's occasional clumsiness or pigheadedness.
  2. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    I don't think I've seen a mainstream movie get fatherhood so right since "Kramer vs . Kramer": the fear, the indulgence, the snappishness, the pre-occupied "uh-huhs" as a child natters about his day, the steamrolling waves of love.
  3. My sentimentality meter never went off, and Smith proved what people have forgotten since his breakthroughs in "Where the Day Takes You" and "Six Degrees of Separation" 13 years ago: He's a serious actor.
  4. The relationship between Chris and his diminutive namesake is at the core of the film - the determination to be there for his son, no matter what; the mentoring, the pair's goofy, lovely banter. And Smith and his bright-eyed boy pull it off brilliantly.
  5. It's a beautiful and understated performance, one that hums with a richer, quieter music than Smith has mustered before.
  6. 80
    The picture's ending -- which is satisfying, possibly even happy, depending on how you look at it -- is almost inconsequential; it's the texture of everything leading up to it that matters. The Pursuit of Happyness, even within its slickness, gets at intangibles that allegedly grittier movies fail to capture -- like how heavy a wallet can feel when you're down to your last dollar.
  7. 75
    A viral blast of the American Dream. It's "Rocky" with a briefcase.
  8. Reviewed by: Ryan Devlin
    It's not often that Hollywood is willing, or even able, to accurately dramatize what it's really like to be poor in America -- to evoke not only the circumstances, but also the sense humiliation and failure. That a European director like Gabriele Muccino, helming his first English-language film, is able to capture the essence of that experience is a testament to his skill as a filmmaker.
  9. While the film is roughly half grit and half sugar, it works because Smith sticks to a tougher, more rewarding recipe of 99.9 percent grit and only .1 percent sugar.
  10. 75
    Smith wins our hearts without losing his dignity, as Chris suits up for success by day and fights off despair by night. The role needs gravity, smarts, charm, humor and a soul that's not synthetic. Smith brings it. He's the real deal.
  11. It's almost impossible to watch this movie and not, on some level beyond reason, succumb. The Pursuit of Happyness is an expert piece of calculation: a male weepie engineered for the whole family.
  12. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    If The Pursuit of Happyness didn't star Will Smith and his adorable son Jaden, it might be just another tearjerker rags-to-riches story. But their chemistry raises the level of the film, making it heartfelt and compelling.
  13. You may have to go back to 1973's "Paper Moon" and the father/daughter work of Ryan O'Neal and 10-year-old Tatum for equal excellence in nepotism.
  14. 75
    The movie is essentially a vehicle for Smith, but the actor more than rises to the challenge. Rarely has attaining the American Dream seemed so impossible or daunting or so intensely, profoundly satisfying.
  15. 75
    Still, there's a decency at the film's core and a desire to do the predictable thing in a generally unpredictable fashion. Those traits make it impossible to reject "Happyness" out of hand.
  16. Will Smith has the right quality for the role -- he's an easy man to root for -- but he augments this by channeling some inner quality of desperation and need.
  17. Conrad's last film, the underrated "The Weather Man," was a parade of miseries, too, but the protagonist (Nicolas Cage) didn’t move very fast in the throes of his existential crisis, and the palette (it was Chicago in winter) was glacial. Here, those crazy San Francisco hills give the movie a lift, and Muccino frames it all airily, with a glancing touch.
  18. 70
    For a movie conceived and executed in the mainstream Hollywood idiom, it has uncommon depth and honesty.
  19. It's the same old bootstraps story, an American dream artfully told, skillfully sold. To that calculated end, the filmmaking is seamless, unadorned, transparent, the better to serve Mr. Smith's warm expressiveness.
  20. The movie is almost devised like a rat-in-maze experiment at the Yale psychology department. Each few minutes some new obstacle comes up for Chris, threatening to obliterate his dreams, at which point the film stands back and watches him improvise brilliantly on the run.
  21. For all its good performances and family values, it's a painful movie to endure. It consists of watching this poor guy suffer one agonizing setback after another for nearly two hours, and its modest emotional payoff comes only in the final moments.
  22. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Far from proving the reality of the Horatio Alger myth it peddles, Chris Gardner's story is worth celebrating precisely because he managed to beat the odds stacked so high against him. Steve Conrad's screenplay is also curiously but insistently silent on the subject of race.
  23. This is a slick studio production with a huge movie star and top professionals occupying every production role so that the polish of this well-made film makes even homelessness look neat and tidy.
  24. Reviewed by: Brian Lowry
    The Pursuit of Happyness is more inspirational than creatively inspired -- imbued with the kind of uplifting, afterschool-special qualities that can trigger a major toothache.
  25. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss/Richard Schickel
    Do we care about Gardner and son? Oddly, we do, because they are so appealingly played. What more might we wish for them? A movie that's a lot less repetitive.
  26. 60
    "Inspired by" is an interesting phrase because the movie is more inspiring than inspired. The man's struggles are emotionally engaging, but dramatically it lacks the layering of a "Kramer vs. Kramer," which it superficially resembles.
  27. 60
    An admirably unsentimental biopic with an excellent central performance, but it doesn't impact as strongly as it could.
  28. 50
    The Pursuit of Happyness is long, dull, and depressing.
  29. 50
    The Pursuit Of Happyness represents a belated and calculated attempt to scrape off the glossy movie-star veneer and connect with the everyday struggles of living hand-to-mouth in the big city, but it's too late. Watching his (Smith's) performance here is a little like imagining an American version of "Rosetta" starring Julia Roberts.
  30. Smith is resourceful in the role, though the story stretches one's credulity about his character's resourcefulness.
  31. Both Smith and his son are appealing presences, but The Pursuit of Happyness seems to take place in a sociological vacuum. Gardner's insight into his difficulties begins and ends with the thought that, in the pursuit of happiness, there's a lot more pursuit involved than happiness, and unasked political questions seem to dangle ominously over the entire movie.
  32. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    There's an inspirational, hang-on-to-your-dreams message, but it comes only at the very end of a long, grim, painful journey. Holiday cheer is not what this movie is offering.
  33. Reviewed by: Robert Wilonsky
    Too emotionally slick to work, too visually glib to have an impact, made by people who think grit is something that's brought in by the prop department.
  34. Reviewed by: Toddy Burton
    Though pretty to look at (with camerawork by Phedon Papamichael) and inspiring to contemplate, this story of human triumph needs a lot more of the human for an audience to actually experience the triumph.
  35. The pursuit is manipulative and repetitive.
  36. 40
    Especially to anyone with kids, the film packs some punch. Apart from that, The Pursuit of Happyness is emotionally manipulative and way too glossy to really hit home.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 249 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 58 out of 88
  2. Negative: 23 out of 88
  1. Jondoe
    Mar 2, 2009
    great movie. anyone who disagrees is a blind fool. it shows how real men take care of their kids. also a great movie on learning how to be a great movie. anyone who disagrees is a blind fool. it shows how real men take care of their kids. also a great movie on learning how to be a father and getting to know your kid. i don't even want to get into the motivational and other aspects of the movie. great acting jobs all around. Full Review »
  2. BillyS.
    Jan 2, 2007
    It's obvious from the beginning that the man on whom The Pursuit of Happyness is based was the subject of an episode of Oprah because It's obvious from the beginning that the man on whom The Pursuit of Happyness is based was the subject of an episode of Oprah because the film plays out as if it were Letterman reads Oprah Transcripts! An hour and a half of suffering, desertion, rejection, suffering, humiliation, suffering, evictions, incarceration, suffering and the final fifteen minutes of finding ones inner-spirit, perseverance and redemption. Will Smith is the suffering hero in a role that seems to be written solely to get him an Oscar nod as a likeable, self confident man with a young son but not a single friend or relative willing to put him up for a night! Give me a break. With a foreign director and Oprah's endorsement to give it weight, it probably will get Mr. Smith his Oscar nomination, which means it's too late for Matt Damon or Ryan Gosling to get that kind of recognition they both truly deserve. Next year, go on Oprah!! Full Review »
  3. Cait
    Sep 16, 2007
    Will Smith spends the majority of this film running around in a suit and thanking people earnestly. Very disappointing and way too cheesy. Will Smith spends the majority of this film running around in a suit and thanking people earnestly. Very disappointing and way too cheesy. Cringeful in fact. That's 2 hours of my life I'll never get back. An awful film. Full Review »