Movie Review: I Am

April 26, 2011

Director Tom Shadyac


From the mastermind behind such comedies as Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, and Bruce Almighty comes the documentary film I Am, which directs each of us to do our part at not making the future a detestable wreck of an existence while simultaneously apologizing for its creator being the victim of an over-indulgent lifestyle. Granted these aren’t the advertised intentions, but I found it difficult to dismiss the notions once they settled in.

Director Tom Shadyac offers his bio-documentary I Am as the answer to the question of what is wrong with the epoch in which we all live. His desire to create this project was born of an accident and resulting concussion. The worsening of his condition led him to serious depression, seeing death as a reality for the first time. Looking in fate’s eyes, he asks two questions of the audience: what’s wrong with the world, and what can we do about it?

Through his infinite resources, Shadyac procures experts to verify that love, not hate, is the way to go about living. Anger and competition are not our intrinsic nature but merely conditioning. Taking more than one needs is against the very basics of natural law. Every redwood only takes what it needs to survive, never depriving the other trees in the forest. Hope and the power of positive thinking can indeed change the world. He realizes this in his 17,000 square foot home, his latest upgrade.

Now Shadyac feels so moved by his revelations that he gives up his ginormous house for a double-wide in Malibu and bicycle to ride to work on. How radical! Hearing Archbishop Desmond Tutu tell you that you are influential is pretty inspiring. Then Shadyac consults yogurt cultures to illustrate his emotions on a magnetometer. The end result of that experiment? The yogurt apparently empathizes with him in his dislike of exes and Hollywood agents.

The interviews, as with most documentaries, are so numerous that it is tough to keep the names and faces straight. Each expert had his or her own take on history, sociology, ecology, and the future. All of these influences sit down and spend time with Shadyac, with only one admitting to even having seen his films.

The film is not flawed in its central message. As Shadyac points out, American consumerism is something like a mental illness, a condition that can only be remedied by being nice to each other and living frugally. Sounds like something our mothers told us at a young age, no?

Shadyac is moved to share the blossoming of his journey to enlightenment, focusing on overcoming greed and rage while sharing love and optimistic thinking. Nonetheless, the volume of fluff surrounding his good intentions overwhelms the potential of Shadyac’s I Am, leaving a certain wanting at the end of the movie. Maybe just wanting that $6 back to spend in a more socially conscious way. Or, even better, a declaration at the end of the film telling me which charitable organization the ticket proceeds would benefit. Here’s hoping.

I Am is currently playing at the Palm Theatre in San Luis Obispo.

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I enjoyed the film and the context of the discussions; I did nto enjoy sitting through the director’s ego (I had a bicycle accident (I fell off my bike) and thought I was going to die, therefore I decided to make a movie)…

This is the only thing that takes away from the brilliance of the speakers in the film. Must see!