I saw this film in 1983 soon after it came out. The film affected me greatly. (A child of the Cold War era, I had stuffed canned goods into a knapsack during the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis.) After viewing the film, I immediately arranged to borrow a 16mm copy from the local library and to rent a projector to show it. I contacted neighbourhood parents to ask if any of their children would like come and watch the film. Then, one evening, I went to the library, got the film, picked up the projector, collected the children, threaded the projector, and showed the film. I did this because I felt that if only one child was moved by seeing the film to try to prevent the catastrophe it portrayed, it was worth the effort.
They say that there are only a certain number of plots. This movie draws on the play An Enemy of The People for its "outsider spoiling the local economy" plot device. It is also a rehash of Jaws, where interfering with the local fishing takes the place of "driving away the tourists." An Indian-Paleface interracial hatred subplot is tacked on to satisfy Canadian content requirements, and the movie echos the theme of innumerable Westerns. Derivative to a fault. Added non-attraction: hackneyed theme of brave scientist "sticking to his guns" in the face of disbelief and antagonism on the part of both his superiors and the locals.
The Pursuit of Happiness is a film loosely based on a Bible story, the one told in the Old Testament's Book of Job.
In the Book of Job, Lucifer (the Devil) claims that Job is faithful to God only because Job's faith had never been tested. God allows Lucifer to torment Job as a test of Job's faith. The rest of the Book of Job consists of a recounting of the many trials Lucifer makes Job endure, and how Job remains faithful to God throughout.
In the movie, Chris Gardner, the protagonist, is faithful to capitalism because his belief in it has not been tested. He, like Job, endures many tribulations. However, Gardner remains faithful to capitalism.
In the movie's "rags to riches" ending, Gardner gets a job as an apprentice stockbroker. He prospers, and we are told he goes on to found his own stock brokerage firm.
As Gardiner endures tribulation, attempts to achieve his goals, and eventually grabs the brass ring of success, he drags his young son along with him. Unfortunately, the movie never says what eventually becomes of Gardner's son.
This movie is entertaining. It's not intellectually challenging, nor does it have a serious message.
Its moral tone is neutral. It is not didactic: it does not attempt to teach viewers anything (except perhaps how to survive in the Phillipine jungle).
The plot contains many suspenseful situations, and reminded me of the plots of the series of "cliffhanger" short movies I used to see at the cinema. Each item in the series ended in a crisis in which it appeared the hero would certainly perish. This benefited cinema owners by attracting patrons back to see the next item in the series. With this movie, I didn't have to wait a week to view the resolution.