"i am sam"
Directed by Jessie Nelson.
Written by Jessie Nelson and Kristine Johnson.
Starring Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer and Dakota Fanning.
Release Year: 2001
Review Date: 2/6/02
Offerings like "The Mothman Prophecies", "A
Walk to Remember" and "Kung Pow: Enter the Fist" have made the
incentive to head over to the multiplex less than appealing. But, I
remembered that I wanted to see "i am sam" because I wanted to see
if all the hype behind Sean Penn's performance as working-class
retard Sam Dawson was worth $9.
"i am sam" is a Hollywood movie about
retards, which is very difficult for me as a subject mostly because
actors don't play retarded citizens very well. I end up laughing
more often than not, because the performances fall into over-the-top
cheesy. But, Sean Penn delivers the goods in this film with a
combination of incredible acting and a well-written, well-layered
story. The story is deep--what might happen if a man whose max
mental capacity is that of a seven-year-old child tries to raise a
daughter that is seven years old? Might she outsmart him? Might
she be better served with more intelligent parents?
As Sam--employed by Starbucks as a busboy
during the day--Penn is simply incredible. Then again, I struggle
to think of films where he was anything less than incredible, so
this is not too much of a surprise. What is great about "i am sam"
is the attention to details and especially the film's great
supporting cast. In fact, the X factor in this film--rookie Dakota
Fanning, as Sam's daughter Lucy--might be the best thing going for
it. Fanning is so cute that some people sitting near me started
crying every time she was onscreen, which got annoying but hey, the
girl is damned cute. It helps that Fanning can act too, which is
more than just smiling her cute smile every time the director yells
action. Plus, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laura Dern, Dianne Wiest, and
Richard Schiff ("The West Wing") are great in their roles and for
the most part, make their characters real people, not just parts in
a film. This is especially true for Schiff, who turns a hack TV
prosecutor job into a guy that has seen enough of the system and has
got more to do than disagree with "the good guys."
[Editor's Note: My roommate Laura just
popped her head into The Inner Sanctum--my room--to say good night,
but instead, she said "Love you long time." Slowly, my ways are
The film does drag on in the final act, but
not so badly that it ruins the film. And, the court case itself
seems to just be generated at random, rather than researched or
played out with any sense of logic. Random facts come out that are
so farfetched, it seems like they were shooting those scenes without
a script. But overall, this is a great film and is both dramatic
enough and humorous enough for pretty much the whole family.
Rating: $9.00 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard