A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"I Am David" tells the story of a 12-year-old orphan boy who escapes from a Bulgarian forced labor camp and travels alone through Greece, Italy and Switzerland to his eventual destiny in Denmark. He has awfully good luck: Along the way, he meets mostly nice people who do what they can to help him, and there's an enormous coincidence just when it's most needed. Benji encounters more hazards on his travels than this kid.
I know, I know, I'm supposed to get sentimental about this heart-warming tale. But I couldn't believe a moment of it, and never identified with little David, who is played by young Ben Tibber as if he was lectured to mind his manners. In an era with one effective child performance after another, here is a bad one.
The premise: In the Cold War, enemies of the Bulgarian state are sent to forced labor camps, where they break up rocks into gravel under the merciless prodding of sadistic guards. I am sure the movie explains how David became an enemy of the state at his tender age, but the detail escaped me; maybe he inherited his status from his dead parents. Certainly he's lucky in his choice of friends, starting with Johannes (James Caviezel), a fellow inmate who gives him encouragement and dreams before -- well, see for yourself.
A mysterious voice on the sound track advises David to escape. He is supplied with a bar of soap, half a loaf of bread, a compass, and an envelope not to be opened until he gets to Denmark or finds Carmen Sandiego, whichever comes first. Sorry about that. The power is conveniently turned off for 30 seconds on the camp's electrified fences, so that David can run across an open field and begin his long odyssey.