And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

I Am

I Am 202x300 - I AmI Am is one of those documentaries that means well, but bored me to tears. Seriously. Way more than Al Gore’s dry, yet mysteriously compelling Inconvenient Truth powerpoint presentation. I Am features director Tom Shadyac (who made millions from big-budget hits including Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty and The Nutty Professor) embarking on a personal quest: to ask intellectual and spiritual leaders around the globe, “What’s wrong with our world – and how do we fix it?” A noble quest indeed, but not one that can be accomplished in 76 minutes.

Shadyac decided to make the documentary after suffering post-concussion syndrome in an accident and realizing that there was more to life – and his role in it – than money, power and privilege. I applaud the epiphany, but I just couldn’t empathize with a guy whose idea of sacrifice is trading in his mansion in Beverly Hills for a trailer park in Malibu and commuting to work on his bike – riding along the Pacific Coast Highway to teach classes at the beachfront Pepperdine University. (I’ve seen those “mobile home parks” and would gladly take up residence there!)

The film is ultimately more about Shadyac’s personal catharsis than saving the world. Personally, I don’t need to hear a bunch of really smart people  (who most Americans wouldn’t be able to pick out of a line-up – except for maybe Desmund Tutu) tell me there’s scientific evidence that wealth doesn’t equal happiness and that the world would be a better place if we all just got along.

I Am is the type of movie that will likely only be seen by curious industry insiders and people already sympathetic to doing their part, however small, to make a difference in the world. Ultimately, it’s missing the cohesive message, empathetic characters, or call to action that makes for a good documentary. It almost gets there in the last ten minutes, but by then, it’s too little too late. So save yourself 76 minutes and use them instead to recycle, pay it forward, smile, play nice, and hold the door for strangers.

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