Pay It Forward
directed by Mimi Leder
(Warner Brothers, 2000)

Most kids think about things like cool toys, bikes and just being a kid. Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) thinks about changing the world.

In the film Pay It Forward, Trevor's horribly scarred seventh-grade teacher Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey) makes an unusual assignment for extra credit: Find a way to change the world and put it into action.

That inspires Trevor, who bicycles every day through the nicer neighborhoods of Las Vegas on his way to his own home in the "white trash" end of town. His single mother (Helen Hunt) works two jobs, one as a cocktail waitress in a strip bar and the other in a casino. He's a latchkey kid, she's an alcoholic. That's probably enough for one kid to think about, but Trevor comes up with an idea for class, an idea he calls "pay it forward."

When he presents the idea to his class, he outlines three rules: "No. 1, it has to be something that really helps people. No. 2, something they can't do by themselves. No. 3, I do it for them, they do it for three other people. These are the rules when you pay it forward on." Simonet likes the idea but doubts it will work; he tells Trevor it's a "little Utopian." But Trevor sticks by his plan and starts helping people out.

His first target is a homeless man. Trevor offers him his allowance savings so he can buy clothes and shoes to help find a job. He provides food, a shower at his house and shelter in his garage (until his mother finds out). Next, he helps Simonet and his mother by playing matchmaker between them. Then he aids a boy at school who's always being picked on by the other kids.

His idea, apparently, fails. But an L.A. reporter who received a favor from a wealthy businessman traces that favor back to Trevor.

I won't spoil the ending but it will leave you in tears. It may also make you wonder what kind of world we live in and maybe even inspire you to do something good for one person -- if not all of mankind.

[ by Felonice Merriman ]

Buy it from