johnlink ranks I AM (2010)

I’m student teaching this semester. One class I have observed more than taught is a class called Student Artists to Young Professionals. The concept is to get seniors to understand some of the challenges they will face as adults. In practice, this is a class to discuss ideas, plan for the future, and really do anything that the teacher and students decide is relevant. It’s a nice model. Anyway, the lead teacher brought this movie in to share. I AM is a documentary which asks some big life questions.


I watched I AM (2010) on 11.6.13. It was my first viewing of the film.

Tom Shadyac is best known as the director of films like ACE VENTURA, BRUCE ALMIGHTY, and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR. His track record as a director of comedies is impressive.

Shadyac suffered a major head injury during a biking accident. His post concussion symptoms were severe. He locked himself inside for months, avoiding the outside world at all costs. He became psychologically broken. In the documentary, he suggests that he may have considered suicide.

Out of this darkness he came away feeling enlightened. He questioned man’s treatment of the world and of each other. He decided to create a documentary which would ask two basic questions: What’s wrong with the world? What can we do to fix it?

In an effort to answer these questions, Shadyac poses them to a plethora of thinkers. Included on this list are Noam Chomsky, Desmond Tutu, David Suzuki, and Howard Zinn.

This documentary mostly avoids being preachy. Obviously, a director of such low-brow (though hilarious) comedy knew he was getting himself into a situation where he would be open to ridicule. This isn’t a self-aggrandizing affair, but rather an open and honest exploration of who we are as a people and what we might do to better our station. Of course, big world concepts like capitalism and greed are tagged as villains, and happier concepts like love and compassion are good guys.

In that sense, this movie doesn’t have much to offer which hasn’t been said elsewhere. I’m not sure this is a movie which will convert anyone to anything. Cynics will see it as fluffy Utopian lunacy. Those who follow a New Age lifestyle will see their gurus expounding on love and feel this is film as revelation, even as it treads old ground. This is a movie which furthers the optimism of a collective consciousness. It makes its points well by giving real world application and a smattering of scientific experiments (albeit in clearly biased circumstances in which the test seems to be looking for a specific result).

Me? I like its message. I like its heart. I like its optimism. I’m not going to bad mouth a movie which wants to further compassion in mankind. This is a funny enough and breezy enough jaunt to be harmless. If it inspires its audience and makes someone a nice person for an extra hour, I’m all for it. Shadyac shoots like as he shot his comedies: straight forward with a smile. No schadenfreude to be found here. The end builds to a nice crescendo and leaves us with happy thoughts.

If nothing else, it should put a smile on your face.


Effect replaces Acting for Documentaries, and it measures the film’s ability to make its point.




~ by johnlink00 on November 6, 2013.

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