Late in the documentary I Am an Animal, PETA co-founder Alex Pacheco says that PETA founder and president Ingrid Newkirk believes there's no such thing as bad publicity. If that's the case, PETA could have used a scathing indictment and not this boring, balanced portrait.
I Am an Animal is at once a profile of Newkirk, an historical look a PETA, a contemporary tale of animal activism and a look at PETA's controversial publicity machine. After catching the recent release Your Mommy Kills Animals, a documentary on the history of the animal rights movement which didn't have anything kind to say about PETA and its fundraising over fur-saving, I fully expected this film to be a rebuttal. It's not. It's hardly anything. With fairness in its sights, I Am an Animal, in a mere 75 minutes, woefully attempts to cast a very wide net without knowing what it is trying to catch.
We are teased in the first moments of the film with a look at a PETA investigation into abuse at ConAgra's turkey processing plant. This could have served as an emotional anchor for the film but is hardly revisited as the program proceeds. The film, with its facts and figures approach, never even captures the spirit of the activists.
Maybe that says more about PETA than it does the actual film. I Am an Animal is a corporatized version of the unfortunately titled Your Mommy Kills Animals (named, ironically, after a PETA flyer), much like PETA is a corporatized version of the animal rights movement. It's at times dreary in its labored ambitions to find out who Newkirk and PETA are, and there's never a sense that it breaks down the organization's image control. The documentary proceeds like a cable news show's profile of a seasoned politician who is making a run for the White House. There's just no bark or bite.