Near the beginning of 39 Pounds of Love—a documentary about Ami Ankilewitz, a Texas-born Israeli animator with a rare form of muscular dystrophy—his mother says that she first knew something was wrong when he didn't play like the other babies. At 34, Ankilewitz has certainly learned how to play. Despite being confined to a wheelchair and, as the title implies, extremely skinny, he puffs on cigars, guzzles whiskey and romances Christina, his cute 21-year-old caretaker. When she rejects him, Ankilewitz fires her and recruits his friends (who include director Dani Menkin and his crew) to accompany him on a road trip across the USA. He has three main goals: to reconcile with his estranged brother, ride a Harley-Davidson, and confront the doctor who told his mother that he wouldn't live past six.
Ankilewitz's story is an inspirational one. Not only has he survived more than five times his life expectancy, he's managed to pursue a career and cultivate a cool set of confidants. However, his animated vignettes, which are interspersed throughout, look like low-rent Pixar shorts, and while he can be charming, he is more often annoyingly bullheaded. (Although given his condition, he probably wouldn't have gotten where he is without a stubborn streak.) Meeting the 39-pound Ankilewitz in real life, as everyone interviewed attests, may be a powerful experience, but in the film he ends up coming off as just a lightweight disgruntled artist. (Now playing; Landmark Sunshine)