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Overall Rating

Awesome: 24.32%
Worth A Look: 22.97%
Average: 2.7%
Pretty Bad35.14%
Total Crap: 14.86%

3 reviews, 56 user ratings

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I am Sam
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by EricDSnider

"A movie that's just as mentally challenged as its protagonist."
2 stars

Some movies melt your heart. “I Am Sam” microwaves it. Rather than go the long way around to your emotions -- you know, with sympathetic characters and good writing -- it uses movie shortcuts like retarded people and cute kids. Put those in a movie, and the tears are guaranteed, regardless of how clumsy or inept the movie is.

“I Am Sam” is about a retarded adult named Sam (Sean Penn) who fathered a child seven years ago and has raised her on his own, thanks to the mother walking out on him almost immediately after giving birth. The little girl is Lucy (Dakota Fanning), and if she’s not just the cutest thing in the world, then I don’t know what is. They have a sweet father-daughter relationship, and Lucy is only mildly concerned that, at 7 years old, she has the same mental capacity as her daddy.

Alas, the courts feel otherwise. Unless he can prove he’s a competent father, Sam will lose Lucy. Lucky for him, a high-powered attorney named Rita (Michelle Pfeiffer) is guilted by her colleagues into taking his case for free, but she has her work cut out for her. All of Sam’s friends are mentally challenged, too, which makes them less than ideal on the witness stand. His only non-retarded acquaintance is Annie (Dianne Wiest), and she’s agoraphobic and won’t leave the house.

The movie is smug, bent on using the Enlightened Retarded Guy to show us the error of our ways. Sure, he’s retarded, but at least he’s devoted to his daughter -- which is more than you can say for the endless parade of contrasting examples the movie sets up for us. (One guy keeps correcting his son during a classroom presentation, a divorcing couple argues over which partner should be stuck with the kid, Rita herself doesn’t spend enough time with her son -- and so on.)

And consider this: In the movie, anyone who even raises the idea that maybe a retarded man with a part-time job and no spouse is not the ideal parent is made out to be an unfeeling villain. Shame on you for even thinking such a thing!

Sean Penn gives more of an imitation (albeit a good one) than a performance, while Michelle Pfeiffer is embarrassingly flustered and high-strung as the lawyer. Little Dakota Fanning yanks the heartstrings like she’s starting a lawnmower.

Writer/director Jessie Nelson wrote the equally maudlin “Stepmom,” and her work on “I Am Sam” is no improvement. It is a film calculated to MAKE YOU CRY. If you like being manipulated in obvious ways, go for it.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 01/25/02 08:40:59
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User Comments

3/29/08 Pamela White Sean makes a wonderful dad 5 stars
10/18/06 Louie The film made me cry!!! 5 stars
10/08/06 Mc Dowell It's one of the best film I'v ever seen...I keep on watching it for around 15 times 5 stars
4/15/06 okierazorbacker Tremendously sweet and moving, but Pfeiffer & Dern's parts are not believable 4 stars
6/18/05 love good movie, but not very realistic 4 stars
3/16/05 Florence The are scenes that made me cry, true... But it's still unrealistic... 4 stars
1/01/05 SnailWithoutAShell You have to have ice running through your veins if you didn't shed just 1 tear 5 stars
11/22/04 BIll WIllett Too bad we don't have more real life movies like this. That's the problem with the world t 5 stars
11/12/04 jellica very emotional but very sad 5 stars
11/04/04 j j 5 stars
7/29/04 khay it is really a touching movie and i guess we should always maintain the equality between al 5 stars
6/27/04 piyush really heart touching movie 5 stars
6/10/04 Daveman Favours manipulation and utterly absurd melodrama over any real insight. 2 stars
9/28/03 JJ A REAL tearjerker with very good acting! 4 stars
9/04/03 Goofy Maxwell Next to the millions of illiterate and abusive adults makin babies, Sam is dad of the year. 4 stars
8/21/03 The Chronic 'manipulated emotions', I love it. Isn't a movie supposed to make you feel something? 4 stars
7/02/03 TheOthersFan offensive in the way it exploits mental handicaps in order to elicit an emotional reaction. 1 stars
6/26/03 cochese Sean Penn playing a retard? Not a stretch and not acting. 1 stars
6/04/03 Charles Tatum Horrendously directed flick has no basis in reality 1 stars
5/24/03 Mr. Do ..hmm.. after a night's sleep, not so bad after all. I'm sorry 4 stars
5/23/03 Mr. Do Stinkin' Shit Suck movie. Earth will be a better place if they stop 'making' this shit 1 stars
4/22/03 mr. Pink Underrated, because of the subject. It's more balanced and less showy than e.g. Rain Man. 4 stars
4/20/03 save the children Anyone who allows a person with the mentallity of a 6 yearold to raise a child needs prison 1 stars
4/17/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik It's confirmed: Jessie Nelson was put on Earth to manipulate your emotions. 1 stars
3/29/03 pinkline jones ....sorry I was asleep for the last hour of this one 1 stars
2/27/03 Vangela emotional pornography. penn is exposed as a hypocrite. 1 stars
1/09/03 Chowie fanbloodytastic 5 stars
12/07/02 Kyle Great acting by Penn. And Michelle too! 4 stars
10/20/02 palaboy101 well {{{ozzie}}} you bashed the movie to smithereens, idiot 4 stars
10/06/02 Jgsmeall Ultimately tries too hard to secure an emotional reaction and drowns in its own tears 2 stars
9/29/02 Peter Sherlock Why in God's name was Penn in this shit? 1 stars
9/08/02 viking come on, it wasn't all that bad. At least Sean Penn was convincing 4 stars
9/03/02 brien I wish my dad was this retarded when i was a teenager.. 1 stars
8/30/02 Jenny An overall great movie 5 stars
8/17/02 LyonHeart44 I LOVED this movie....back when it was still called Kramer vs. Kramer, that is. 2 stars
7/30/02 Monday Morning Hey, Romulus & Remus were raised by wolves & founded Rome, so what the hell? 4 stars
6/23/02 save the children What person with the mental ability of a 5 or 6 year old has the right to raise a child. 2 stars
6/10/02 steve donaghy i love crying at a good this was great. so i cried a river all three times i saw this movie 5 stars
6/10/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi i absolutely loved this film, ive neva cried so much! sean shood have won the oscar!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/02/02 Chris By not treating mental disabled people as a big joke, I Am Sam honors itself. 4 stars
3/26/02 Angela Chase Who knew Sean could act? He was amazing in this picture!!! 5 stars
3/26/02 Tracy Frummond Sean Penn's beautiful portrayal ROBBED by just another corrupt cop role. ACADEMY EATS SHIT! 5 stars
3/25/02 Natalie Stonecipher Superb! Sean Penn should win best actor and even Michelle Pfeiffer grows on you. 5 stars
3/12/02 spaceworm Not the poke in the eye I'd heard about(and Michelle is a fine cure for poked eyes anyway). 3 stars
2/22/02 voltron Good acting by Penn; a bit of a tear jerker but pulled off well. 4 stars
2/15/02 Michael Votto Fantastic acting by Penn and Fanning. 4 stars
2/11/02 the Grinch I don't think Sean Penn was acting.... 2 stars
2/09/02 Suzz Nauseating camera work; Pfeiffer yells constantly. Left with a headache and upset stomach 2 stars
1/31/02 Don Hite Lacked depth and character development, also the shaky camera made me nauseous 2 stars
1/29/02 ajay go to this if you really like to cry, and you like laughing at those "cute" retards 2 stars
1/29/02 Ben Jammin' Don't care what anybody says... I liked it! 5 stars
1/28/02 KMAN Not a masterpiece but worth a look 4 stars
1/25/02 laurie I would not torment myself by attempting to view this crap! 1 stars
1/10/02 Elizabeth The actors in this movie were very powerful & truly brought out their characters role. 5 stars
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  25-Jan-2002 (PG-13)



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