Review: ‘Pursuit of Happiness’

As weak and banal as its thoroughly uninvolving central character, "Pursuit of Happiness" plays the game of positioning a man and a woman who, by all rights, should be together but aren't, and yet by the final reel, will be. It's a matter of waiting for the inevitable, and a long wait it is under the plain-wrapper direction of John Putch.

As weak and banal as its thoroughly uninvolving central character, “Pursuit of Happiness” plays the game of positioning a man and a woman who, by all rights, should be together but aren’t, and yet by the final reel, will be. It’s a matter of waiting for the inevitable, and a long wait it is under the plain-wrapper direction of John Putch and writing of co-producer John Zaring. Frank Whaley plays the sort of proper but emotionally torn American guy that James Stewart once embodied, but without the aroma of charm or star presence. “Pursuit” will find unhappy theatrical prospects, with an ancillary future bringing only the slightest of smiles.

Offered a post with a Seattle ad firm, Alan (Whaley) appears set to relocate with wife Janet (Dawn Eason) — except that Janet is moving out on him with no warning. Alan’s circle of friends is only partly helpful in consoling him, but best pal Marissa (Annabeth Gish) is a rock, even when Alan wastes his time trying to date young Tracy (Amy Jo Johnson), and even though Marissa has her own home strife with husband Paul (Alex Hyde-White, also co-producer).

Pursuit of Happiness

Production

A Showcase Entertainment presentation in association with the Martindale Group. (International sales: Showcase Entertainment, L.A.) Produced by Alex Hyde-White, John Zaring. Co-producer, Darryl Taja. Directed by John Putch. Screenplay, John Zaring.

Crew

Camera (CFI color), Ross Berryman; editor, Vanick Moradian; music, Alexander Baker, Clair Marlo; production designer, Mara A. Spear; costume designer, Bonnie Stauch; casting, Cathy Henderson-Martin, Dori Zuckerman-Mentzer. Reviewed on videotape, L.A., July 20, 2001. (In New York Independent Film and Video Festival.) Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Frank Whaley, Annabeth Gish, Amy Jo Johnson, Patrick Van Horn, Cress Williams, Liz Vassey, Alex Hyde-White, Dawn Eason, Jenn Gross, Adam Baldwin, Jean Stapleton.
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