Pay It Forward (2000)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 18-Jul-2001

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Audio Commentary-Mimi Leder (Director)
Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 118:21
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:32) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Mimi Leder

Warner Home Video
Starring Kevin Spacey
Helen Hunt
Haley Joel Osment
Jay Mohr
James Caviezel
John Bon Jovi
Angie Dickinson
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $34.95 Music Thomas Newman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    First things first. The name Pay It Forward comes from an idea. When someone does you a favour, you (being an honest person) want to pay it back - "I owe you one". The idea here is that you don't pay it back - you pay it forward - you do a favour for someone else (actually, for three someone-elses). This is not a new idea. Some people call it Christian charity (I don't, because I don't consider it limited to those of any one faith). The version of this idea in this movie is one where we are not talking about small favours - we are talking about large, life-changing, ones. I have to admit that I think that's a little unrealistic. Not everyone needs a large favour, and not everyone who receives such a favour can find someone else to pay it forward to (let alone three). That's not to say that the idea lacks merit. I have believed in a similar idea for years - one known as "random acts of kindness" - for no reason at all, you do something nice for someone else, and if they ask why, you say "call it a random act of kindness"; if they ask how to repay you, you suggest: "do something for someone else". You'll never know if they do, but that's fine - that's part of the idea.

    OK, it's a nice idea. Now I want you to put it aside, to think about later. If we can avoid getting hung up on the idea, then we can look at this movie.

    This is not a completely happy movie. It deals with some ugly stuff. If you get sucked in by the trailer and the blurb on the back, and believe that this is happy movie and one you should watch with the kids, then beware! There are some ugly things in here, too.

    There are three central characters, and they went to considerable trouble to cast very good actors. Kevin Spacey plays Eugene Simonet, a man living in a self-imposed mental isolation because he has dreadful scars on his face and body - he works as a teacher, and a good one, too, but he keeps his distance. Helen Hunt is Arlene McKinney, working two jobs to raise her son, fighting alcoholism, and not necessarily winning. Haley Joel Osment plays her son Trevor, idealistic, coping with his mother's problems, tidying up after her, and dreading the possible return of his father (played by Jon Bon Jovi). These are not easy roles, and I'm impressed by the performances. There are some impressive bit parts, too. Of particular note are Angie Dickinson (you won't recognise her) and James Caviezel. But I think Helen Hunt stands out. This is a radically different role for her, but she does a superb job. She is more than convincing.

    The movie is structured in an interesting way, with two interwoven strands. One of them starts with the beginning of the film, and works backwards, while the other starts four months back, and works forwards. It sounds hard to follow, but it isn't - it works very well indeed.

    I do want to say that I hated the last ten minutes of the movie. I know Hollywood demands certain things of an ending, but it felt wrong. I don't want to give anything away - watch the film, and see if you agree.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This movie was made in 2000. You'd expect a film made so recently to look good, and it does.

    The movie is presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. The theatrical ratio was 1.85:1, and that's what the back cover claims we're getting.

    The image is sharp and clear, with good shadow detail. There's no edge enhancement. The Region 1 version is a touch sharper than ours, but I think that leads to increased aliasing. Our version is about as sharp as you can get without it. There is one moment with a touch of low-level noise (77:13) - it is a very low-light shot.

    The colours are strong - this film is set mostly in Las Vegas, and the colours of surrounding desert and sky come across well.

    There are a few film artefacts - miniscule flecks, but barely visible, even on a large screen. At 48:51 we see a momentary touch of pixelization. There's a moment of moire on an air-conditioner, and a hint of aliasing on a car door frame. It is almost as though they decided to put in one tiny example of each possible artefact to drive their score down. Too bad! I'm not going to take points off, because the artefacts are small, and have no impact on enjoying the movie.

    There are lots of subtitle tracks, but I only looked at the English subtitles. They are in a simple font, presented in white with a black border - easy to read. They are accurate, and well-timed. A good example of how subtitles should be done.

    The disc is single sided, double layer. I didn't notice the layer change when watching the movie, nor when listening to the commentary. I went looking for it using a DVD player that indicates the current layer and found it at 53:32, in the middle of a scene. Normally that would make it stand out. In this case, it is on a cut from one actor to another, and we're waiting for a reaction. There's no music to give us a cue, either. Nice work.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three soundtracks: English, Spanish, and Italian, all Dolby Digital 5.1, plus the audio commentary. I listened to the English 5.1, and commentary.

    Dialogue is clear and easily understood, except for a few lines spoken by a drunken group in a bar (what they say is not relevant, anyway). I didn't see a single lapse in audio sync.

    The score is by Thomas Newman. He has put together an interesting score, with an irritating (but effective) theme on what I think is a vibraphone (you'll hear it on the menu). The score underlines many of the key moments in the movie without being obvious. Excellent work.

    The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1, but you wouldn't know it. The surrounds have little to do, although they do provide some ambience. The subwoofer gets nothing to do. My sub switches on when it gets a signal, and switches off when there's no signal for 15 minutes. The first time I watched the movie it was on because of the movie I'd watched previously, but it switched itself off partway in. The second time it never bothered waking up. That's OK - there's not a single explosion in the entire movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menus are static, with music behind the main menu. They are themed around the diagram that illustrates the idea. The select scenes menu is not very good - it only allows selecting every third chapter stop - you must press chapter skip from there. The Region 1 version allows choice of any chapter stop.

Cast and Crew

    This is a list - just one page. The Region 1 version has filmographies for the main entries, but we get nothing more than the list.

Commentary (Mimi Leder - director)

    Not the greatest commentary I've ever heard. She does the necessary raving about how great the actors are, and how brave Helen Hunt was to play this character. She froths on a bit about the amount of research the actors did to understand their characters. She mentions her nepotism (her husband and daughter act in the film, and her sister did the casting). She gets a bit repetitious, particularly about the house the McKinneys live in - she tells us several times that it was a facade constructed for the movie. There are a fair few periods where she's not talking, but they don't stretch too long. In all, not a thrilling commentary, but interesting enough to listen to once.

Featurette - Making Of (13:26)

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. A standard "making of", featuring all the significant people involved, including a moment with the novelist.

Theatrical Trailer (2:23)

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Don't watch it before watching the movie for the first time, because it gives away too much.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 and 4 discs are essentially identical, even to the cover artwork (although theirs is in a snapper case, while we get a Transparent Amaray case). The R1 disc has only French and English soundtracks and subtitles, but it has filmographies. Their "making of" is titled "HBO First Look", but the content is the same - maybe we aren't expected to know about HBO?. The picture looks slightly sharper on the R1, but there's a bit more aliasing. All up, I'd call it a draw. 


    Pay It Forward is a very good movie, presented well on DVD. Just don't get fooled into thinking it's a happy movie.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, September 01, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Michael C
Cassandra Nunn DVD Reviews - Cassandra N

Comments (Add) NONE