"All the power and punch of an old 'Dondi' comic strip"
Sometimes when an artist comes out with something completely different from what they are known for, the results can be thrilling-the change-of-pace seems to invigorate them and sends them to places that you never suspected they could go. Other times, though, the results are pretty dire and you simply wonder what made them want to do such a thing in the first place. “I Am David” is an example of the latter; it was directed by Paul Feig, creator of the classic TV show “Freaks and Geeks”, but even those whose auteurist radars are incredibly fine-tuned will have a hard time discerning any trace of his gifts in this film, one that is as well-meaning as it is dull (and believe me, it is incredibly well-meaning).The film takes what should be an extraordinarily moving story-in 1952, a young boy (Ben Tribber) escapes from a Bulgarian prison camp (thanks to Jim Caviezel, once again sacrificing himself) and sets off on an extended journey to Denmark-and somehow figures out a way to sap all of the excitement, drama and emotion out of the proceedings. Part of the problem may be that the film is far too episodic for its own good-there never really seems to be any degree of urgency or effort to David’s quest (no matter how long he has been traveling, he never seems particularly worse for wear)-and part of it may be that Feig doesn’t really seem to have a firm grasp of the details; all of the characters that David encounters along his way seem just a little too broad to be believed. This is most evident in the extended sequence that finds David in Italy; he runs into shopkeepers reminiscent of the pizza chef from “The Simpsons”, he proves his heroism by saving a girl from a burning barn that she has been tied up in (she claims she was playing with her brothers-either she is in denial about something or Italian kids really do play rough) and when the girl’s rich family takes him in, the setting is so opulent that it feels as if he was dropped right into the middle of “The Leopard”. That sort of approach might work on television (where subtlety is not always appreciated, as any “Freaks and Geeks” fan can tell you) but it doesn’t quite come off on the big screen.The biggest problem with the film is that there is never a single moment where I could understand why Feig would want to tell this story in the first place. There is never a moment of passion or excitement and even the heavy-duty emotional moments feel oddly muted; for all of its good intentions, it has all of the power and punch of an old “Dondi” comic strip. I can see how it might work on television-the kind of thing where you can watch with one eye while doing other stuff without fear of missing anything important-but there is nothing about it that would make a trip to the multiplex to see it worthwhile.