New York Times - 12/28/2001
"...Mr. Penn, with his usual discipline, burrows deep into Sam....You need only look into the actor's eyes to see how deeply he is committed to perceiving the world the way Sam does..."
Box Office - 01/01/2002
"...Emotionally effective....Fanning, in her first feature role, is charmingly earnest and positively luminous..."
Rolling Stone - 01/31/2001
"...[Penn] gives a bold, heartfelt performance....[It's] a portrayal of stirring emotion and blunt truth..."
Total Film - 05/01/2002
"..[Fanning is] cute without being cutesy, smart without being smart-arsed, she's the bright eyed emotional heart of the film..."
Actor Sean Penn displays another facet of his versatility as the title character of this inspirational tearjerker--a mentally handicapped father fighting for custody of his young daughter (Dakota Fanning). The child welfare board of his native Santa Monica has taken her from him, worried that at eight years old she has already begun to pass him in intellectual development. Sam's argument is that it's not brains but love that counts, and his case is taken by a stressed-out hot shot lawyer named Rita (Michelle Pfeiffer) who has her own problems dealing with her rebellious son. Anchored by his infectious love of the Beatles, the ceaselessly enthusiastic Sam becomes a positive influence on Rita as he raises a lot of questions about what's most important as a parent. Though it's Penn's show, Pfeiffer is so good she practically steals the film from him, and the startlingly precocious Fanning is not far behind. A warm soundtrack of Beatles covers and clever, fast-cut editing help the message of love and forgiveness shine through.
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