Ethan Colburn’s review published on Letterboxd:
This movie could never be made today.
At its core it has a sort of Reagan-era optimism that by working hard and being better than your peers you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps. The film was made shortly before the ‘08 crash, which caused a souring on the concept of the American Dream. This film is a remnant of its time, and yet, in a bubble, it still works.
I can be skeptical of films like this, yet Will Smith’s performance brings it all together. With a worse performance, you’d get a less likable character, and the only reason this works is because of Chris’ earnestness. He pursues his goals for the right reasons, and gets beaten down, until he finds his way. He loves his son, and fights for what’s right. I find it interesting that despite being extremely persistent in his career, he seems to demonstrate no passion for what he’s doing, yet he sees his career as a possible escape.
At the end of the day, it’s the character that stays with you, and that’s more than I can say for most “heartwarming” films. Very effective.