The newest documentary in Paramount Network’s I Am series, I Am Patrick Swayze, focuses on the legendary actor of Dirty Dancing, Ghost, and Road House fame. A touching, if shallow and sometimes overly sentimental celebration of a talent gone too soon, this documentary is made for fans of the actor or any of his aforementioned films.
If you are aware of Swayze and his body of work, then you will likely also be familiar with his story. He began as a ballet dancer, made his way into acting, and then passed away at a young age from cancer. Although the end to his story is certainly tragic, the things he was able to accomplish and the impact he made on the people around him are moving and wonderful. The movie focuses on these aspects of Swayze’s story, and you will be left wishing he were still around to see this tribute.
However, you can’t help but feel like this film could have been something more. After his diagnosis, Swayze became a very vocal activist supporting cancer research. Yet the movie only spends ten or so minutes on the last part of his life. Although it is understandable why the filmmakers would want to emphasize his career and personality, this documentary could have served as a valuable tool to increase awareness of a terrible disease.
Additionally, the film doesn’t feel like it goes deep enough into Swayze’s personal life, simply providing a cursory glance over his biographical information. At many points in the movie, it will seem like there is more to the story than is being shown, and frequently there is. Although anecdotes from his family members and people who worked with him give us an illusion of closeness to Swayze, this illusion does not hold up under scrutiny.
Because of these reasons, the film doesn’t have the full emotional impact that it should. Of course, by the end of the movie, you will admire Swayze if you didn’t already, and you will be sad that he is no longer with us, but this film simply isn’t as heartbreaking as other recent tribute documentaries. You will be entertained and informed, but the likelihood of being caught teary-eyed, unlike other entries in the I Am series, is slim.
The movie’s use of interviews also comes with mixed success. Those interviews with Swayze’s family members, such as his widow or his brother, are most impactful because they feel the most personal. Interviews with other Hollywood figures, Swayze’s co-stars, aren’t as effective. Swayze’s Youngblood co-star Rob Lowe is featured prominently in the documentary, yet adds very little to the film’s narrative.
On a technical level, the documentary is well-made but unmemorable. Director Adrian Buitenhuis’s style is straightforward and traditional. Buitenhuis is able to convey the story, but not in a way that will stick with you long after watching the movie. Ultimately, this film serves as a nice way to remind people of Swayze’s legacy, and little else.
It isn’t the best or most in-depth documentary paying respect to a lost talent, but I Am Patrick Swayze is an all-around solid movie that allows fans the chance to reminisce about the life and career of the great actor. One day, Swayze’s story will be told in the way that he deserves, but this will do for now.
I Am Patrick Swayze airs on the Paramount Network on August 18 at 9pm ET/PT.