Saturday, November 28, 2009

I Am David

NetFlix let me down this time. The database suggested that I Am David would register better than four stars for me. I liked the concept and felt like there were definitely some good concepts explored. However, the film had the quality (especially dialogue) of an “Afternoon Special.” The poorly written dialogue was tepidly adapted by Paul Feig from a novel written by Anne Holm. Reading the synopsis of the book, it appears that Feig added an interesting twist to the plot, but changed some elements of the story. This is one where the book might be far superior to the cinematic version.

David (Ben Tibber) is a fictitious boy who, at twelve years of age, has very few memories of anything other than his life in a post-WWII concentration camp. Ben want to escape the camp and enlists the aid of Johannes (James Caviezel). Johannes has become fond of the boy, offering him advice to help him survive. After a brief exchange in the camp, we are guided through twenty minutes of action, overlapped by instructions that have been given to David prior to his escape. The instructions are step-by-step directions to assist David in finding his way to Denmark. Several borders and unexpected challenges await the young escapee on his journey. David meets a variety of people who each share something with David, helping him to understand life outside the confines of a concentration camp.

I Am David is a tender poignant tale that has two very good plot twists to enhance the value of the story. The excellent concept is compromised by dialogue which seems like it is drawn directly from a first –grade reader. The dialogue borders on insulting in simplicity. The film has a run-time of ninety minutes, the first twenty being narrated. That leaves precious little time to develop the characters that David meets on his journey. It seems as if David bounces from one experience to the next with little opportunity to fully engage the other characters. This made the dialogue even more tedious and superficial. The characters really did not matter to me. There was an excellent plot twist at the end that could have paid out in spades if it had been played right. As it was, I merely yawned at the ending. It was squandered on characters that just did not matter to me.

The acting wasn’t necessarily bad in I Am David. However, because of the weak character development and generic dialogue, the characters lacked life. It must be difficult for an actor to try and engage an audience with a character whose interactions are sparse or perfunctory. We go through the motions along with the actors and never have a chance to feel anything. In a nutshell, this film lacks soul, and no Oscar-winning performance can change that. Having said that, Tibber was decent as the confused but brave escapee. Joan Plowright was a bright-spot as a kind-hearted artist who befriends David near the end of the film. She was engaging in spite of her limited role. Caviezel seemed genuine enough, but again, his relationship with David was weakly examined. The rest of the cast was forgettable. None of them were bad, just made invisible by dialogue and interaction that lacked heart.

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