By Matt Loede
Movies put out by WWE Studios don’t normally have a lot of deep meaning to them, which is why the new Samuel Goldwyn drama “That’s What I Am,” is one that frankly shocks you.
There’s no car blow ups, no jail breaks, and no wrestling in the movie. Instead, it’s a movie that centers around an 8th grader in the 1960’s, a time where tolerance and the accepting of others was not nearly as common place as it is today.
“That’s What I Am” is about young Andy Nichol (Chase Ellison), a student in his last year of junior high. Nichol isn’t the most popular kid in his school, but he’s also for the most part accepted by almost all the groups in his junior high.
When Andy is assigned an English writing project by his favorite teacher, Mr. Simon, played very well by veteran actor Ed Harris, he’s partnered with the one boy in the school who day in and day out seems to take a beating – both physically and mentally – Stanley “Big G” Miner (Alexander Walters).
The “G” in Stanley’s name stands for ginger. He’s a tall, red head with large ears and finds himself being picked on by just about every kid, bully or not. Instead of defending himself from the beatings, Stanley takes the high road, knowing that those that picked and beat on him would eventually reap what they sowed.
Stanley and Andy quickly become pals, working on the project when the movie takes a turn when one of the school bullies, Carl Freel (Cameron Deane Stewart), gets suspended for beating up a girl who he says gave him cooties.
Mr.Simon comforts the young girl, and once he gets Carl suspended, the movie takes another twist when the bully spreads a rumor to his parents that the teacher is homosexual.
The Viper, Randy Orton, makes his acting debut as Carl’s father, who works hard on trying to get Simon removed from teaching. He’s not ready for an Academy Award by any means, but his character does a good enough job to earn kudos for not embarrassing himself in the movie.
Simon is faced with the tough decision on if he should allow the pressure of Carl’s parents to get involved with his personal life, or if he should himself take the high road and step away from the profession he loves.
There’s also some romance as well for young Andy, as he scores his first makeout with the hottest girl in the school – Mary Clear (Mia Rose Frampton, daughter of ‘70s rocker Peter Frampton). It’s a fun part of the movie to see young Andy try to get enough nerve to ask Mary to go steady while trying to avoid her ex-boyfriend, another school bully in Ricky Brown.
The movie concludes with Stanley facing his peers at a talent show, Andy learning what tolerance and seeing how people are different are all about, and Mr.Simon making the biggest decision of his life.
It’s a fun movie that shares some tough life lessons, teaches people of all ages to remember what’s important in life, and also reminds us of the great life lesson of compassion.
The cast does a solid job in their parts, and while at times it’s a little tough to see the bullies get their way, but in the end credits, you know as adults the road they are headed down.
4 Stars Out of 5
For Movie, DVD or Product reviews, contact Site Editor Matt Loede at Matt@NFLGridironGab.com