Simon Birch tells the story of Joe and Simon's heart-warming journey of friendship. Simon Birch was born with a condition that makes him much smaller than all the other kids in town. Now, due to his condition, Simon thinks God made him this way for a reason and highly believes in God. Together, Joe and Simon go on a journey of trust and friendship to find the answers to many things. Their friendship is put to the test when some unfortunate events happen.Written by
Throughout the entire film, Simon can be seen wearing a hearing-aid (behind the ear). These were developed in the 1960's, however the model seen in the movie was not available until after 1964. See more »
I've been thinking.
Last year we were in the squirt league, and this year we're in the pewee.
So what do they want us to do, play baseball or urinate? Anyway, I was just thinking.
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It has a lot of heart, but not enough to overcome its many flaws
It's hard not to like a movie that has such likeable qualities: a cute dwarfish boy who believes he has an unspecified mission from God, an equally radiant buddy who's always there, a mother figure in the form of the highly under-rated Ashley Judd, and all that gorgeous faux-New England scenery (the film was shot in Canada). The problem with "Simon Birch" can be encapsulated in Jim Carey's unheralded appearance as the film's narrator. With his best "I-desperately-want-you-to-like-me" voice, he sweetly intones his lines earnestly and with a great sense of anticipation, however he never really transcends a vapid flavor of Jack Handey-ness about his presentation. In fact, the whole movie resembles an extended "Deep Thoughts," from the scenery down to the sentiment that at times out-sacchrine's sacchrine.
To its credit, "Simon Birch" has some earnest moments that actually work. Like the John Irving novel it was based on ("A Prayer for Owen Meaney"), the film has many fascinating plot twists and developments, but it is essentially a character exploration, and to that end Irving (and "Birch") will reveal or hint at key plot developments early on so that you are free to enjoy how the characters evolve. And there are many fascinating characters to examine: Simon himself, his friend Joe (Joseph Mazzello), Joe's mother, Joe's grandmother, Simon's parents, and so forth.
The central failing of "Simon Birch," ironically, sits squarely on Simon's shoulders. The boy is cute, no denying that, notwithstanding his often preternaturally awkward, chitchatty preoccupations with breasts that becomes annoyingly omnipresent. The film revolved around the question of his divine calling: he knows God has a purpose for him, he tells everyone so. And yet when the fateful moment finally arrives, you've been so set up for something, well, truly miraculous that what actually does occur makes you go, "oh, is that it?" The payoff for this set-up is something that could easily be relegated to good fortune or ideal timing. The film even goes a long (and often ridiculous) way to set things up so that Simon can become the hero he becomes, but once again, the moment isn't so much "divine" as it is, well, fortuitous and nothing more. Maybe what "Simon Birch" is trying to say that ordinary heroism is itself divine, but if that is true, it swathes that ordinary heroism in so much sentiment and patent unordinariness that you are sure exactly what the message is. The movie is too concerned with making you cry at the end to consider its own ambiguous message.
Joseph Mazzello is also becoming a potential problem. I enjoy his work, from the brat in "Jurassic Park" and the genuinely affecting tyke in "Shadowlands." But as he's grown older, he hasn't shown too much development as an actor. Granted, he's young still, but he is beginning to show the limits of his range. His "Simon Birch" character is virtually indistinguishable from his "Shadowlands" and "The Cure" characters. He's seems to rely too much on his cute factor and the movie's cute factor to get him through some tough acting spots, and it is beginning to show.
The best actor of the bunch, Ashley Judd, also has the least amount of screen time. Though her limited time is woefully inadequate to her talents, she manages to show grace and dignity with what she has to work with. Judd is one of those rare actors who looks equally appropriate in a period piece as she does in contemporary films (and even sci-fi, as evidenced in her work as a recurring character on Star Trek: The Next Generation), and I trust that she will find better showcases for her as yet untapped reservoir of talent.
And thus "Simon Birch" collapses on itself because of too many good intentions spent on too flimsy a premise. Jim Carey, on his eternal quest for screen-cred, will have to keep mugging wistfully in more pictures before he gets its just right. "Simon Birch" could have used a lot more sincerity.
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