I Am Sam
December 29th, 2001
All you really need to know about I Am Sam is that the film is liberal propoganda crap. Seriously. It's an ABC movie of the week with a better caliber of actors and less trying to solve the problem it allegedly examines. And it has far more Beatles references than a year's worth of films should have.
Sam Dawson is a retard who works at a Starbucks somewhere in Los Angeles. As the movie opens, Sam is meticulously putting all the various sweeteners together in the little sugar trays. Sugar, then Sweet and Low, then Equal and finally Sugar in the Raw as the first of many many Beatles songs done by other artists plays on the soundtrack. As the opening credits continue, we discover everyone knows Sam and at least tolerates, if not adores, him. The manager of the Starbucks tells Sam "It's time" and Sam takes off. Sam heads over to a hospital, where some woman is giving birth. She rejects the baby, and Sam is given the child. He names her Lucy. Lucy Diamond Dawson. The next scene has Sam and the still unidentified woman leaving the hospital with the kid. As he boards a city bus with the kid, the woman mumbles something and runs off, leaving Sam to raise the child on his own.
Of course, Sam isn't alone in raising the little brat. There's his adorable clan of fellow retards who comes over for movie night every Wednesday and go out to IHOP every Monday... or was it IHOP every Wednesday and movie night every Monday? And there is Annie, the obligatory neurotic artsy neighbor, who watches Lucy when Sam is at work. A montage shows Lucy continuing to grow up until she is the disgustingly adorable seven year old moppet the story needs her to be. Lucy has just started school, but is starting to fall behind in school. Learning that Lucy's father is a moron, the heartless school board sics the even more heartless Child Services on Sam, taking his bundle of joy away from him. Through a series of misunderstandings only morons can come up with, Sam ends up getting Rita Harrison, a high class überlawyer constantly pissed off about the most trivial of manners. But of course, she doesn't want to take Sam's case. But of course, she must, in order to propel the story forward. And she must be forced to do it to save face in front of her fellow workers.
Long story short, there is a series of hearings... Laura Dern is introduced as Lucy's foster mother... Sam tries to become a better member of society... Rita becomes a human... Annie overcomes her thrity year plus phobia to testify on Sam's behalf... and somehow, Sam overcomes all obstacles to get the brat back. Nothing is gained, and the only thing lost is two hours and ten minutes of your time, plus previews and commercials and public service ads.
The little girl, Dakota Fanning, is exactly what she was discovered to be... a little heartbreaker with big blue eyes and a flop of cute blonde hair. And that Lucy is the most interesting character in the entire film shows just how worthless this film really is. Sean Penn makes a good retard, but so what? He's still one of the best actors working today. What he needs is to do something like The Family Man, playing a seemingly normal character. He can do this part in his sleep. No one doubts that. And Michelle Pfieffer playing a cold hearted bitch who eventually becomes the sweet loveable mother we all knew she could be? Not much of a stretch. And the remainder of the supporting cast, including Dianne Weist, Richard Schiff, Ms. Dern and Loretta Devine, are nothing more than the flat one dimensional characters you'd come to expect from bleeding heart tear jerker wannabes that need bodies to help move the story along.
What truly sucks about this film are the number of scenes where a number of topics are just tapped on then thrown out before the scene is truly over because the director didn't need anything else. An example scene is when Lucy wants to go to Bob's Big Boy for a change instead of the IHOP. Sam unsuccessfully tries to order what he always gets from IHOP, which this restaurant does not carry. Sam has a meltdown right there in his booth while Lucy looks sadly at her father. Then we're on to the next scene. What happened in the Big Boy? How did Lucy handle her father? Frankly, it doesn't matter to the director. The scene was only meant to show how Sam is incapable of handling change in his routine.
Jessie Nelson, who previous wrote and directed the wretched child driven tear jerker Corrina Corrina, is about as subtle as a jackhammer. Who needs a consistent storyline with meaning when you're just trying to show how bad the system is, anyway? Not one scene Ms. Nelson and her co-scenarist Kristine Johnson created shows us anything we haven't already seen a hundred times before. You'll probably sit there going "Yeah... yeah... yeah..." for the entire running time, waiting for something of merit to happen. It doesn't.
The film is also chock full of Beatles covers done by the likes of Paul Westerberg, Sheryl Crow, The Black Crowes, Sarah McLachlan, The Wallflowers and Aimee Mann, who teams with her husband Michael Penn (Sean's brother) on Two Of Us. Much like the movie, the covers don't attempt to reinterpret that which is already familiar. Every song is basically note for note recreations of the originals.
The entire project screams "Why bother?"
My rating: D