THAT’S WHAT I AM
A coming-of-age story that follows 12-year-old Andy Nichol (Chase Ellison), a bright student who, like most kids his age, will do anything to avoid conflict for fear of suffering overwhelming ridicule and punishment from his junior high school peers. Everyone’s favorite teacher, Mr. Simon (Ed Harris), pairs Andy with the school’s biggest outcast and social pariah, Stanley, aka “Big G” (Alexander Walters) on a critical term project. Sporting thick orange hair, a head too big for his body and ears too big for his head, “Big G” has been the object of ridicule since grade school. Before long, Andy will learn that there was truly a method behind Mr. Simon’s madness as to why he teamed these two up. As the story unfolds, Mr. Simon finds himself the target of a malicious rumor after Principal Kelner (Amy Madigan) suspends a school bully for brutally beating up a female classmate who he thinks has “cooties.” When Andy watches “Big G” fearlessly confront the school bully, a series of events are triggered, which change the lives of both young men – and their teacher – forever. Much to Andy’s surprise “Big G” is brilliant, kind, tolerant and a decent human being, who has more dignity than anyone Andy has ever encountered.
That’s What I Am is another of the movies that tackles the issue of bullying in school, this one with a kid who is sort of in the good gang and his sweeter than life English teacher, Mr. Simon, who is played by the wonderful Ed Harris, tells him he’s going to be a writer and pairs him with Big G., who is a kid who is a kid who has acromegaly , so he’s got big ears and big body and big chin and kids make fun of him, and this is how he comes to grips with kids who are bullied. Again, the cause celebre of Hollywood this year. The wonderful and married to Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, plays the principal and there is a rumor started that Mr. Simon is a ” homo” with the kids unsure about exactly what that means and what happens when a kid with a chip on his shoulder tells his dad. This is a movie with a great deal of heart. The voiceover, I believe, is done by Greg Kinnear, uncredited, but it seems a little derivative, a little bit like Wonder Years, but having said that, there’s a whole generation that didn’t grow up with Wonder Years so they may find it sentimental and appealing. I’d give it three and a half stars.