A young boy stumbles upon a simple way to change the world in this drama. Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) is a bright 11-year-old boy who comes from a troubled home; his mother Arlene (Helen Hunt) is an alcoholic trying to hold down two jobs to… More A young boy stumbles upon a simple way to change the world in this drama. Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) is a bright 11-year-old boy who comes from a troubled home; his mother Arlene (Helen Hunt) is an alcoholic trying to hold down two jobs to support her son, while Trevor's father Jon Bon Jovi) left his family behind some time ago. At school, Trevor's class is introduced to their new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey), a guarded man with severe facial scars. Simonet gives his class an unusual assignment -- think up a practical way to make the world a better place, and put it into action. Trevor comes up with the notion of "Pay It Forward" -- do a needed favor for three different people without being asked, and then ask them to do the same for three others. Trevor starts by letting Jerry (James Caviezal), a junkie living on the streets, stay in his home. Next, he tries to fix Arlene up with Mr. Simonet, since both seem to be lonely and the clean and sober teacher might help Arlene stay away from alcohol. Finally, he tries to rescue one of his schoolmates, who is constantly tormented by bullies. Meanwhile, journalist Chris Chandler (Jay Mohr) finds himself stuck on the road without a car late one night when a man stops and give him the keys to a new car, asking him only to pay the favor forward to someone else; astonished, Chris wants to find out where this philosophy came from. Based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hide, Pay It Forward also stars Angie Dickinson and Liev Schreiber. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
Consensus: Pay It Forward has strong performances from Spacey, Hunt, and Osment, but the movie itself is too emotionally manipulative and the ending is bad.