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'Happyness' is hard-earned in Will Smith drama

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"The Pursuit of Happyness," starring Will Smith, begins with one of those "inspired by a true story" notations letting us know we are in for an uplifting anthem to the human spirit. The spirit in this case belongs to Chris Gardner, whose life story was first used as a segment on the TV show "20/20" in 2003.

When we first see him in "The Pursuit of Happyness" – and yes, the misspelling of "happiness" is intentional – Chris is unsuccessfully trying to make ends meet for his family as a salesman of portable bone-scanning machines. (They're about the size of a microwave.) His wife Linda (Thandie Newton) is working overtime to help support Chris and their 5-year-old son Christopher (Jaden Smith, Will's real-life son). Anguished by Chris's woes, she ditches the family and leaves him to care for the boy. Chris is also evicted from his San Francisco apartment and ends up camping out with his son in men's rooms and homeless shelters.

What keeps Chris going is his dream of landing an internship at a brokerage firm. (Early on we see him ogling a fancy car belonging to a broker.) With nothing more than his innate drive and smarts – he's a Rubik's cube whiz – he makes it into the competitive internship program from which only one candidate is chosen.


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