I am Sam

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/10/02 08:35:38

"Would you leave YOUR daughter with a retard for a week? Didn't think so."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

I Am Sam is one of those movies that always tend to come about around Oscar time - the actor's movie - where every single character's role allows the person playing it to scream, cry or be evil in at least one scene. And don't they all come pouring out of the woodwork in this bad boy! Sean Penn plays the retarded dad fighting for his kid, Michelle Pfeiffer plays the hard-assed lawyer (mmm... ass) who sees the error of her ways through her friendship with said 'tard, Laura Dern pops in for a few scenes so she can sneer a lot, then cry a lot, as she realises that there's no daddy like a 'tarded daddy, and Dianne Wiest plays the agoraphobic neighbor of 'tardo. She sways, plays piano and squeals if you open a door. With friends like these, who needs enemas? I'll tell you who does - THE FREAKING AUDIENCE!

Okay, so I'm always one who has been open to a good tearjerker. I admit it, I did shed a few at What Dreams May Come, ET managed to extract the odd drop of salty stuff out of my ducts, and sure, okay, I even dropped a couple of wet ones at Message In A Bottle. I may never live down that last one, but I'm prepared to put my hand up and claim responsibility for the wet tissues in my popcorn box. But Jesus fuck on a stick, the only way you would have got me to cry in I Am Sam would be if you gave me indian burns and then pinched the inside of my thigh. Seriously, I mean, how does a straight thinking person go through a movie thinking, "Yeah, the retard should keep the kid!" Like, people, put your brains on again - he's RETARDED!

Yeah sure, whatever; developmentally disabled, intellectually challenged, get over it all you politically correct folks - whatever word you use for it, the fact remains that this guy is retarded. He's a tardboy. El Tardarino. The Tardster. Tardy as a motherfucker. And don't even start on me about political correctness now. I don't care if the handicapped prefer to be called developmentally disabled - I'd like to be called Molthar, Slayer of the Christians, but you don't see me crying about it when it doesn't happen.

Now before you get all huffy on me, let's turn this around for a second and propose a hypothetical scenario. You've got to go to Dubuque for a weekend on a business trip and you call for a sitter to look after your kid while you're gone. You're about to leave for the airport when up the sidewalk stumbles your babysitter for the weekend. And he's a tard.

"Have a nice twip!!"

No way, you're not getting on that plane, Sparky - you KNOW you're not. So HOW on earth are we supposed to go through an entire film that's based around a retarded Sean Penn fighting to keep his doe-eyed seven year old, and not feel like the entire movie could be avoided if they just gave Tardo a chewtoy and waited a week for him to forget he has a daughter?

This entire movie is based around the concept that it's wrong to take a seven-year-old kid out of the care care of a guy that would have trouble negotiating his way to the bathroom. Frankly, I wouldn't leave a seven-year-old cat in his care. Face it, Oprah-fan, you might love to watch some story on 60 Minutes about a tard who raised a kid that grew up to be President, but if the Government started randomly handing out orphans to the spaz contingent, you'd flip out like a Southern Baptist at a biker rally, and you freakin' know you would.

Okay.. so.. the movie. Well, it was produced, directed and written by the writer of Stepmom and Corinna Corinna. If that speaks 'quality' to you, I suggest you put down the Sweet Valley High books and start reading a little Hemingway. Jessie Nelson is to directing what Osama Bin Laden is to diplomacy. There's no room for not feeling what she wants you to - it's her way or the highway.



I mean, for the love of Mike, the retard just got his kid taken from him, we know we're supposed to feel sad... CAN YOU PLEASE TURN OFF THE FREAKING SAD PIANO AND LET ME BREATHE!

This movie was directed in a manner that almost seemed to be attempting to make me feel 'empathy retarded'. The editing is jumpy and lazy, the 'style' choices come straight out of the textbook 'Being a Wanker Director in Seven Easy Steps', the music JUST DOESN'T STOP and the interminable number of close-ups on Sean Penn going through his Facial Tick Tard Dance just gave me hives.

Yes, sure, Penn does well playing a spazzo. Yes, he's good. Yes, he's method to the core. Give the guy a round of applause for keeping it going until the end. But you know what?


Michele Pfeiffer plays his lawyer, who is heading for a mental breakdown before she starts to see how wonderful a parent Penn's character is. Poor Michelle. She only has a thriving law practice, a body like a Venus De Milo (with arms attached), a house the size of Latvia and a shiny Porsche. Life's a bitch for this bitch. But for some reason, just to show us in record time that she's unhappy, she has to have a total shit-fit, complete with flying plates of jellybeans and startled employees, in front of a client in her FIRST SCENE!

Don't allow for us to draw our own conclusions there, Jessie. Join all those dots for us. There's a good hack.

Now, it's hardly surprising that Pfeiffer blows it in the first half of this film, as she's working with the script equivalent of a bowl of borscht. Not a single line doesn't come out forced, because frankly the lines are horrendous. And so are the characterizations she has to endure. In fact, it's not until the scriptwriter takes her foot off the 'hate me' pedal that Pfeiffer is allowed to act anywhere close to a normal person, and when that happens she's oh so fine once more.

To cut a long story short, I Am Sam is like every bad Robin Williams movie you've ever seen. It's forced, it's simplistic, it refuses to give you three seconds of screen time without music playing over the top of it and it's based around a dumb premise that stops the film from working before it's even begun. Put simply, this is a two hour Oprah segment, and I for one look forward to the day I can rent it at Blockbuster and record porn over the top of it.

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