We don't ask a lot from our movies. A nice story, maybe with some sex, violence and Batman thrown in.
But sometimes a movie comes along and takes on special meaning because it's based on a true story, and so we watch with rapt attention knowing that some real dude lived through all the awesomeness on screen. But if you're going to go with the "Based On A True Story" tag, all we ask is that you make the stories sort of, you know, true. You can do that, right?
Not if these movies are any indication.
7The Pursuit of Happyness
The Hollywood Version:
Chris Gardner is a hard-working man with a pain-in-the-ass wife and an adorable little son boasting one of the greatest afros we've ever seen on a child. All Gardner wants to do is make enough of a living to provide for his son.
Through what we assume is black magic, he solves a Rubik's Cube in record time, wowing an employee at Dean Witter and he apparently passes the only test needed to qualify a man to become a stock broker. He toils for months, sleeping in subways and churches with his son at his side, but in the end it all pays off when he claims the one and only opening at Dean Witter, crying tears of joy and getting jiggy wit it in the streets of San Francisco.
In reality ...
Gardner did get a chance to show his stuff in the Dean Witter training program (though we're sad to report his acceptance had nothing to do with solving a colorful puzzle game). But, as the more honest book version points out, he apparently wasn't quite the father the film made him out to be.
First, he was so focused on getting a job and earning his first million that, well, he actually didn't even know where the hell his son was for the first four months of the program.
Chris, Jr. was apparently living at this point in time with his mother, Jackie. Did we mention that the boy had been conceived when Gardner was still married to another woman?
In addition, instead of being arrested just before his big interview due to parking tickets ... well, it seems that Chris was actually arrested after Jackie accused him of domestic violence.
"That's right son, you gotta keep that pimp hand strong."
Don't get us wrong, Chris did indeed get his life turned around after landing the job as a broker. There were just some things in Gardner's past that they couldn't quite bring themselves to have Will Smith do on screen. Like selling drugs (as Gardner admits he did briefly), or doing cocaine with his mistress, with little doses of PCP and a hearty helping of Mary Jane tossed in for good measure.
Adulterous sex? Cocaine? Neglecting your child for months at a time? It says something about the man that he didn't drop the pursuit, despite having pretty much found happyness already.
The Hollywood Version:
Ben Campbell is a math genius excelling at MIT, home to some of the brightest young minds on the planet as well as a really smart custodian. He catches the eye of Kevin Spacey, appearing in all of his "phoning it in" glory, who recruits young Ben for the MIT Blackjack Team. At first, it all seems harmless enough, as they play just to learn the age-old art of card counting.
Once they get good enough, Spacey whisks the team off to swingin' Las Vegas to give their new talent a try in a real world setting. Of course, things don't go quite as planned (typical), and after a severe beating at the hands of Cowboy Curtis, Ben learns some harsh lessons about life and love before tromping off to Harvard Medical School.
In reality ...
If there's anything we can learn from 21, it's that Hollywood won't give an Asian man a starring role unless it calls for someone who can do karate while getting berated by Chris Tucker.
In fact, 21 gives us perhaps the greatest whitewash in recent Hollywood history--a broad, sweeping stroke of Caucasian across the majority of the cast.
The real MIT Blackjack Team was almost totally Asian, but you'd never know that from the film. Even Kevin Spacey's character was based in part on an Asian professor, who has been known to dress like a woman in order to sneak into casinos. Apparently, a transvestite Asian math genius isn't as interesting as Spacey in the "just make sure the check clears" stage of his career.
But hey, at least they did cast a pair of Asians as members of the Blackjack Team. Naturally, in sticking with current Hollywood trends, they were made into goofy loser sidekick types, while the white kids handled all of the heavy intellectual lifting. Not since Mickey Rooney's performance in Breakfast at Tiffany's has Hollywood treated Asians with such respect and dignity.