May 1, 2011|"Ian, my brother." A casual greeting turned into an awkward embrace, and I realized then that all the time I had spent researching director Tom Shadyac's career wasn't going to play much of a role in the ensuing conversation. Shadyac was in town to discuss I Am, his self-conscious, documentary break from light family fare--which, he hopes, will change a few minds about the essential nature of humanity. (If he doesn't consider the days of Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor, and Bruce Almighty to be behind him, this was not, I correctly surmised, the publicity tour on which to discuss it.) When we sat down to talk, I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about I Am. The director sensed my skepticism from the very beginning, and he didn't try to convert me in any traditional sense of the word. He just wanted to hash out our respective feelings on the film and have a decent conversation about them. I sort of wish that his vibrant personality shone through in I Am as well as it did in person; his statements here were delivered like an interesting university lecture, whereas the movie feels a bit more hectoring in its approach. And, yes, he followed through with a second hug at the end of the interview.