Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.

Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris

St. Petersburg Times Online

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Strong acting makes 'I Am Sam' compelling

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 28, 2002
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Movie: I Am Sam

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Sam Dawson (Sean Penn) is the mentally challenged father of a precocious 7-year-old girl, Lucy (Dakota Fanning). Because Sam's mental capacity is only that of a 7-year-old and things have reached a point where Lucy becomes intellectually brighter than her dad, a social worker steps in and has Lucy put into foster care.

Sam begins a fight to get her back and ultimately is helped by a lawyer with her own issues. They're in for a major fight with the courts to prove his capacity to be a good father.

My view: This was an awe-inspiring film. The acting was incredibly great! Sean Penn was amazing and extremely convincing, playing the role of Sam with great sensitivity. Dakota Fanning is obviously a very talented young actor with much potential. Michelle Pfeiffer, playing Sam's overstressed lawyer, also did a fantastic job. The plot was interesting, and I really liked the whole film.

Favorite part: Sam had friends who stood by his side throughout the movie, three played by mentally challenged actors. One knew a lot about movies and always liked to spout statistics, one was particularly sensitive and caring, one was perpetually worried and paranoid, and the fourth one was just happily agreeable. Their totally different and funny personalities added a lot to this film.

Recommendations: Because I Am Sam features a very serious and sensitive topic, I think it would appeal more to ages 13 and up. Within that age range, I strongly recommend this film. The PG-13 rating is for some of the language heard in the film.

Grade: A

- Billy Norris, 14, is in the eighth grade at Seminole Middle School and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

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