The title would appear to describe the benefits of owning a very large puppy. The production values are amateurish. The musical score is mushy. The 3-D animation sequences are sentimental. Indeed, everything about the documentary 39 Pounds of Love shouts cute except the subject, Ami Ankilewitz, a 34-year-old man with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. When he was first diagnosed, his doctor told the 1-year-old’s mother that her son probably wouldn’t live past the age of 6. And now here he is 33 years later, sipping whiskey through a straw, sporting a Harley Davidson tattoo on an arm barely the width of two fingers, and pining with love — adult, untenable love — for the pretty young Romanian woman hired to clean and carry all 39 pounds of him.
Physically challenged people with good attitudes are often recruited by filmmakers to inspire more able-bodied sorts — sorts who, by inference, have no business being in worse moods than, say, a crumpled dude like Ankilewitz. It’s a gooey genre, and director Dani Menkin, who first met his subject in Tel Aviv where Ankilewitz lives and works as a 3-D animator (he depicts himself on screen as a misshapen bird), can’t escape traps with the same damn-it-all gusto available to the makers of Murderball.
But in moments that have nothing to do with representing the weight of love (whatever that is), the film comes alive: when Ami Ankilewitz isn’t a symbol — just a man who, for instance, loves a woman.