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. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  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
    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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 75
    A viral blast of the American Dream. It's "Rocky" with a briefcase.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  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: Chris Hewitt
    An admirably unsentimental biopic with an excellent central performance, but it doesn't impact as strongly as it could.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 50
    The Pursuit of Happyness is long, dull, and depressing.
  29. 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.
  30. Smith is resourceful in the role, though the story stretches one's credulity about his character's resourcefulness.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. 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.
  36. The pursuit is manipulative and repetitive.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 235 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 58 out of 88
  2. Negative: 23 out of 88
  1. May 28, 2013
    The film is always in the pursuit of great things, and we are always tasked with feeling depressed or emotional when the story unfolds, and lead character Will Smith and his real life son Jaden give is so many reasons to feel this way after watching The Pursuit of Happyness.
    Based on a true story, Smith plays Chris Gardner, a smart and traditional family man, but also a down on his luck individual who is late with his rent, his childcare payments and and must fund these essentials through the sale of bone density scanners, a luxurious spin on X-ray machines, and that exact point is just what makes these things so hard to sell, a pointless luxury.
    As Chris is tempted by the perks of being a stockbroker in the 1980s, his wife Linda (Thandie Newton) has had enough of Chris' lack of deliverance on the family front, and decides enough is enough. The punch here, however, is that Chris is desperately trying to provide for his family, he just doesn't know how.
    When Chris decides to pursue the stockbroker prospect, he gets accepted onto an unpaid internship lasting six months. As Chris delegates over what his future prospects are, he must think about the present, and of course his son.
    Will Smith delivers an awe-inspiring performance as the unlucky man in San Francisco, we see his anger, frustration but love for his son all at play, and he must put up with many people he simply don't understand. Smith's son Jaden also performs brilliantly in his debut performance as Chris' son Christopher, he's just a kid who wants to have a normal life, but also seems to understand what his father is going through, and shows flashes of his dad's intelligence which creates a wonderful father/son dynamic, even when a night spent in a public toilet just for warmth brings them closer than ever.
    But what has been sacrificed in an otherwise flawless film is the notion that even if the real story of Chris Gardner isn't familiar to the viewer, there is rarely a downbeat moment where we believe there isn't going to be a happy ending, the constant talk of happiness and how it may be misinterpreted are giveaways throughout the film, leading to a predictable, but still satisfying ending.
    A touching and happy story is told, with inspired performances from Will and Jaden Smith that works on the father and son dynamic of being a team and always sticking around for each other.
    Full Review »
  2. Feb 22, 2013
    This piece of junk edged out Babel as the worst film I saw in 2006, and stands firm as maybe the worst film I have ever seen. Definitely top five. The entire over-long endeavor essentially presents scene after scene of Will Smith running, being a jerk to people, running some more, riding busses, disobeying pedestrian traffic laws, sitting down, laying down, running, etc., etc. If you like this film you just have horrible taste. I can reach no other conclusion. Full Review »
  3. Feb 13, 2013
    A movie of severe suffering and unbelievable perseverance. The Pursuit of Happiness is a triumphant of a film of one man's struggle. Brilliantly executed coupled with Will Smith giving an acting performance of his career. Full Review »