I Am Sam

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2 1/2

Content: -1

When Sams (Sean Penn) daughter is born, his wife abruptly walks out on him, leaving Sam to care for the child completely on his own. Its a big task for mentally challenged Sam. Fast-forward seven years. Lucy (Dakota Fanning), now almost seven, lives happily with her father. However, when one of Lucys friends complains that Sam hit him, Lucy is taken away by social services. Faced with the prospect of long-term separation from his beloved daughter, Sam seeks out high-priced lawyer Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer). At first unwilling to help, Rita eventually takes his case for free, and in the process, receives a much-needed lesson in parenting herself. The acting in this film is top-notch, with Pfeiffer maybe giving the best performance of her career. Penn is completely believable as the handicapped Sam, and young Dakota Fanning hits all the right notes, particularly in her scenes with Penn. Strong emotional tension carries throughout the films high highs and low lows, so much so that the audience may be emotionally drained by the time the films climax comes around. But even the most hard-hearted should be rooting for Sam at the films conclusion. I AM SAM could be an early-year hit at the box office.

Based on true events, the film's central conflict revolves around a man with the mental development of a seven year old. He certainly relates well to children, but the question is whether or not he should be a parent. The film clearly takes a side on the issue, but there's enough credence to the opposing view to make the conflict compelling and promote discussion. Plenty of lessons can also be taken home as the issue of parenting, specifically what makes a good parent, comes up again and again. The movie argues essentially that love is all that is needed and, in the process, gives an important illustration of what sacrificial love looks like in this day and age. Rita learns, among other things, the importance of slowing down her corporate world pace and taking some time for her son. The film suffers slightly from some overly candy-coated dialogue, amounting to a few lines that, had they been left out, would have made the movie that much better. The film's major objectionable content is strong profanity, with God's name used in vain seven times (most spoken by Rita in her hurry to get from place to place) and a single strong obscenity. Foul vocabulary seriously mars what could be a thought-provoking film for older teens and adults.

Preview Reviewer: John Adair
New Line Cinema, 888 7th Ave., 20th Flr., New York, NY 10106

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Few (4) times Mild 3, Moderate 1

Obscene Language: Twice - F-word 1, other 1

Profanity: Many (10) times Regular 9 (GD 7, For C sake, For G sake); Exclamatory 1 (OMG)

Violence: Once Mild (man falls)

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: Plenty of comments about whats important in parenting

Running Time: 132 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and adults

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