Given the subject matter, it seems inevitable that He Named Me Malala should be a worthwhile documentary. But director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) has put together a strangely lightweight, dispassionate film. Its stylish animated sequences are nice to look at, but ultimately rob Yousafzai's story of some of its power. An abundance of casual moments obviously intended to emphasize that she's a 'regular teen girl' are over-relied upon. A little clowning and mawkish sentimentality goes a long way, but some of these candid moments are unnecessary. Yousafzai never comes across as anything but likable, but the key here is that she is decidedly far from average. Guggenheim can't be faulted for painting a rounded portrait, but it is his subject's extraordinary courage that deserved a more intense focus.
That said, if the name Malala Yousafzai doesn't already resonate with you in some way, He Named Me Malala remains a must see. The film, running a very tidy 88 minutes, is a very accessible way to become acquainted with a very inspiring person. What it lacks in hard-hitting intensity (and even detailed information, for that matter), Malala makes up for simply in terms of spreading the word about this young woman's accomplishments.