LITTLE ROCK If you know Tom Shadyac’s name, you probably don’t think very highly of his work.
He is - or maybe, was - a journeyman Hollywood director who makes movies (Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, Liar, Liar, The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty) for the sort of audiences who don’t give much thought to mise-en-scene or auteur theory. These audiences made him rich, a fabulously successful businessman.
But success didn’t make him happy. And after a serious mountain bike accident in 2007, which left him in such pain that he considered suicide, he decided to try to find out what was wrong. Not just with his life, but with the world.
So his success afforded him the opportunity to take a camera and schedule appointments with some of the world’s most “significant minds” - scientists and spiritual leaders and philosophers. He came armed with a two-part question: “What’s wrong with our world and what can we do about it?”
The resultant film is not designed to make Shadyac any richer, and that’s good because it won’t. It’s a sweet movie, but an extremely slight one that seems not to notice the banality of its no doubt profoundly felt, anti-materialist worldview: “Yes, Mr. Shadyac, all things are connected and money cannot buy you love.”
Still, it hardly feels right to dismiss what is so obviously a labor of enthusiasm out of hand. It’s only about an hour and 15 minutes long, and Shadyac goes to great lengths to keep us from becoming bored. He seems like a nice man and a good sport. And his critique is as well-intentioned as it is naive, and some of the people he talks to do express interesting ideas (the most interesting sound bites come from the most controversial commentators, left-wing intellectuals Noam Chomsky and the late Howard Zinn).
Still he seems frankly nutty when he argues that yogurt can detect our emotional state. I hope he’s joking; I fear he’s not.
I Am 85 Cast: Documentary, with Tom Shadyac, Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Coleman Barks Director: Tom Shadyac Rating: Unrated Running time: 76 minutes