Between The Sixth Sense and the spanking-new Pay It Forward, Haley Joel Osment has pretty much captured the market for portraying young boys bearing unusually heavy loads of human suffering.His whispery voice, often delivering lines as if he is on the verge of weeping, suggests a child who has seen far more of the fallen world than have many adults.In Pay It Forward, Osment plays what has become a painfully familiar character in contemporary America. His Trevor McKinney is the son of alcoholic parents who does what he can to protect his mother (Helen Hunt) from her abusive ex-husband (Jon Bon Jovi). Their lives are transformed, however, by Gene Simonet (Kevin Spacey), the sort of teacher who can change a student's worldview and is remembered fondly for decades afterward.Simonet's assignment is concise but demanding: Think of an idea to change our world—and put it into action.Trevor's "pay it forward" idea is to keep compassion moving—multiplying a blessing by helping three other people without fanfare. If those three people help another three people, who help another three people, before long one act of kindness can touch hundreds of lives.Through much of the film, Trevor feels as though his idea is a failure, which is one of many realistic touches included in the script based on Catherine Ryan Hyde's novel. Mimi Leder (ER, The Peacemaker, Deep Impact) tells CT that the script came to her attention after she took an 18-month break from business to spend time with her family."I read it and I immediately said, 'I am going to make this movie. I have to make it,' " Leder says.While the film does not promote an explicitly spiritual vision, it encourages the sort of generosity found throughout Scripture."The film encourages people ...

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Directed By
Mimi Leder
Run Time
2 hours 3 minutes
Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt
Theatre Release
October 20, 2000
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