There’s nothing fancy about Paramount Network’s Patrick Swayze documentary, I Am Patrick Swayze. It is a simple and lovely tribute to the late actor spliced with scenes from his big movies, archival footage, and interviews with the people — famous and not — who knew him. Rob Lowe and C. Thomas Howell (from The Outsiders), Demi Moore (Ghost), Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), Lori Petty Point Break), Sam Elliot and Kelly Lynch (Road House), and several others take time out of their lives to speak effusively of Swayze, his work ethic, and his sweetness.
There’s a lot of talk in the movie about Swayze being a “guy’s guy,” and “masculine,” about being a ballet dancer/cowboy from Texas, but there’s just as much in the documentary about his kindness and his vulnerability. Those two qualities combined to make Swayze who he was, both on film and off. As his agent says in the doc, it wasn’t Dirty Dancing that made him a star. It was the interview with Barbara Walters where Swayze cried over the loss of his father that made him so universally appealing to both men and women.
All his greatest hits are discussed, from The Outsiders to Too Wong Foo (Rob Lowe expresses some amusing disappointment in losing that role out to Swayze). What ultimately makes the no-frills documentary from Adrian Buitenhuis most engaging, however, are not the famous people who speak on his behalf, but his brother, Don Swayze, and especially his wife, Lisa Niemi, to whom he was married from 1975 until his death in 2009. That’s 34 years of memories to share, and 34 years worth of heartache to get across on film, and it’s through Niemi’s perspective that I gained an even deeper respect and admiration for Swayze.
I Am Patrick Swayze is certainly not necessary viewing, but if you grew up on Swayze, there’s enough valuable nostalgia in the fawning documentary to make the stroll back through the ’80s and ’90s worth the effort, but do bring some tissues.