Generally unfavorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 33
  2. Negative: 19 out of 33
  1. 30
    Contrived, manipulative and shamelessly sentimental, this film is notable for the courageous reach of Sean Penn, who gives a bold, heartfelt performance.
  2. Reviewed by: Robert Koehler
    An especially insipid example of the Hollywood message movie.
  3. The film means well, but each scene gets clobbered by sappy screenwriting.
  4. It's a difficult issue, one that is not well served by a hollow confection like I Am Sam.
  5. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Drawn out and dishonest in equal measure, Sam fights it out with "The Majestic" for the title of worst "important" movie of the year.
  6. 25
    The film is so busy that every minute is exhausting. It's as if the filmmakers were idealistic teen-agers afflicted with a group case of Attention Deficit Disorder.
  7. Reviewed by: Ron Wells
    Is this what Sean Penn has come to in his 40s? He hasn't appeared this retarded since he was married to Madonna.
  8. 0
    It's a bad movie that only a parent could love.
  9. 33
    This isn't an ordinary film built on a remarkable performance; it's a poor one with a gem at its core. Penn can elevate it to mediocrity, but he cannot make it fly.
  10. I Am Sam is about as connected to the real world as Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham, from which its title is derived -- in fact, in the realism department, Seuss may have the edge.
  11. 30
    Well-intentioned but ludicrous tale.
  12. 30
    It’s a heart-tugging scenario undermined by a striking hypocrisy: obscuring a hot-button issue in casting, some actors with Down's syndrome have minor roles, while Penn plays the lead -- and chews the scenery.
  13. The movie that Disney uses to explore this premise drips with so much corporate good-neighbor syrup, you might want to wear something waterproof. And Penn's performance is, at best, ripe for discussion.
  14. In one of the year's most woefully manipulative and oppressively pandering offerings: I Am Sam, a dolled-up TV movie-of-the-week masquerading as profound cinema.
  15. 0
    Penn's portrayal strikes me as equally insensitive. It's the nightmare performance of 2001.
  16. Actual concussive cranial abuse would be preferable to Jessie Nelson's I Am Sam.
  17. 38
    There's only one excuse for the sentimental and ham-handed I Am Sam, and it's not to tout the rights of the mentally disabled.
  18. The film's one realistic performance is that of Dakota Fanning as Lucy, whose child's shame, fear and resourcefulness ground the movie in recognizable behavior. She breathes air into this suffocating enterprise.
  19. 30
    Pfeiffer, enormously likable in the role, almost saves the movie. [28 Jan 2002, p. 90]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 99 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 40 out of 51
  2. Negative: 5 out of 51
  1. Sep 27, 2011
    I agree the movie was pretty cheesy and tacky for its taste but seriously, "I am Sam" doesn't deserve this much hate.
  2. Feb 27, 2013
    Why don't the critics like this? It was so realistic and wonderful. The critics are being bad at their job. >:l Yes watchers, pretty much allWhy don't the critics like this? It was so realistic and wonderful. The critics are being bad at their job. >:l Yes watchers, pretty much all love this. This is EPICCCC Full Review »
  3. Nov 28, 2012
    It may be overly sweet, but it's still an engaging film with one of Sean Penn's greatest performances sealed within it.