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I Am

It is enormously tempting simply to say that I Am is a new film from the director of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, Patch Adams, Dragonfly, Bruce Almighty, and Evan Almighty, a list that, if you compare the quality of the films to their box office success, can only lead you to despair. I suggest that not as punishment to those who bought tickets for them, thus ensuring that there would be more to come (though it’s a nice thought), but because the audience for those films are the ones most likely to benefit from what this documentary wants to do.

In 2007, director Tom Shadyac suffered a concussion in a bicycling accident. The after-effects of it were months of untreatable head pain that left him longing for death. When the pains unexpectedly subsided, he gave away much of his fortune, moved into a simpler house, and decided to devote his life to spiritual concerns. In this documentary, he asks a number of prominent thinkers two questions: What is wrong with the world? What can we do about it?

The film opens promisingly with shots of a number of impressive people, including Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, who subsequently aren’t much heard from. (Credit Shadyac for an amusingly self-deprecating sequence in which all but one of his interviewees say they’ve never heard of Ace Ventura.) Most of the talking heads are from organizations like the Institute of Noetic Sciences, who from various perspectives hone the theory that the universe and all living beings in it are connected in ways that science is only beginning to understand.

A lot of I Am imparts wisdom that isn’t much of a surprise. (Apparently money does not buy happiness!) But you can’t deny that Shadyac is committed to his message, and if the movie fails to give you at least a bit of a warm fuzzy you may just be too much of a cynic. Think of it as a movie that will set Ayn Rand spinning in her grave (which certainly makes its release well timed.)

m. faust

Watch the trailer for I AM

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