Tag Archives: Nutty Professor

I Am – The Human Condition

I found this article interesting enough to shamelessly copy and paste it word for word. I will of course highlight some of my favorite quotes from Mr. Benzel’s article and will be searching for the documentary I AM by Mr. Shadyac. It looks like it’s worth watching. 

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The Theme Beneath the Themes

Quin Benzel
For The Vancouver Voice

In Tom Shadyac’s new documentary, I AM, he begins every interview by asking eminent scholars like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Desmond Tutu if they have ever seen Ave Ventura: Pet Detective. They haven’t. “These are people who helped change me,” Shadyac said during a recent Portland visit. If you didn’t know the person but only his movies, it’d be easy to call bullshit. No way the man who made Evan Almighty could make something with actual meaning and intent. Could he? Has he all along?

Turns out Shadyac has more on his mind than an animal sleuth with social issues. “I’d been questioning things in my life for years,” Shadyac says. “As success came my way I started to notice a hypocrisy in my life.” At the film’s end, he gives his wealth to worthy causes, buys a bike and moves into a mobile home in Malibu. Now a teacher of screenwriting at Pepperdine University in California, Shadyac lives a much more deliberate life. But I Am is a tricky movie to describe, and most attempts to do so do not give it justice. It really is as simple as this: It’s about feeling and compassion and how we’re biologically engineered to cooperate and not compete with each other.

But it could also be a sense of closure for Shadyac, who made the movie after a bike accident brought life violently into perspective. “ I thought I was literally going to die. I had post concussion syndrome, and it’s quite torturous. I thought, ‘if I am going to die, is there anything I want to explore or say before I go,’ and that’s how I Am was born.”

However, just wanting to say something is easier than actually saying it. The movie could have easily turned into another hour-and-a-half exploration of why the world is so corrupt, but I Am has magnanimity on its mind. “I love documentaries, but I think for myself I’d moved beyond documentaries pointing out the problem. I wanted to know what we do. This film is very different because it’s very hopeful,” Shadyac says.

And through all the egalitarian themes and good vibrations the movie emits, Shadyac never once forgets who he is. “I’m the guy who directed Ace Ventura, and my sensibilities are in this film, so I think it makes it very accessible. There’s a humor and pace to it.” I Am doesn’t resort to such crude humor as having someone grab their ass cheeks and mimic talking through their butt, but it does display a sly comic tone—all while attempting to relate how we are meaningfully connected to the world around us.

It’s poetry blended with scientific fact. At one point we’re told that the chemical element argon is inert, and that when we breathe it, we’re taking a breath that could have once been inside the lungs of Joan of Arc. This may not be as important to understand as helping your fellow-man, but collectively it works as a means to help come to terms with the most essential parts of life. “Very few people will say ‘it’s [what’s most important in life] because my IRA matured.’ They all tell a very similar story. ‘I was apart of something creative, loving, a family, I grew,’”says Shadyac.

But the man credited for cramming more fart jokes into a dinner scene (The Nutty Professor) than anyone before him is by no means a distant memory. “I look back on all those movies with an incredible fondness. Making someone laugh is a way we connect with each other, and I would do it again,” Shadyac says. “The difference is I would do it differently. I would be much more efficient with the resources. I would do it with a simplified crew, and I wouldn’t be amassing all the wealth myself.”

And even upon a close look, I Am shares uniquely similar traits of the human condition that films like Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor or Patch Adams also did. I Am is the theme below those themes. It’s why we may lie to each other; it’s why we may put another person down. [It] looks at the root cause of the society we’ve built.” And even of his past projects, he says, “I think if somebody’s suffering in the hospital and they see Ave Ventura and it removes them from their pain, that’s a pretty important movie.”

Shadyac tells us that “nothing in nature takes more than it needs.”As humans, we’re the only species really capable of greed or unprovoked, malicious intent.But we’re also very susceptible to change. We can empathize, reason and understand. Shadyac says, “I Am presents a point of view; I’m welcome to other points of view. I just want to start the conversation.”

I Am is now playing at the Fox Tower in Portland