Simon Birch (1998) Poster

(1998)

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10/10
A fluid, graceful success-- enjoyable and uplifting
bopdog3 September 1999
Fantastic movie! I had avoided this one in the theaters last Fall because of the theme. Consider this movie in light of the other "suffering child" movie that came out around the same time, "Patch Adams." Bless those "Patch" folks, they really tried, but that movie was dense, depressing, and the characters were tedious if implausible. "Simon Birch," however, succeeded in every sense. It evoked the late 1950's and early 1960's very well. Not just the look of an American small town, but the vibe of the folks, especially the adults, rang very true for me (I was there, same age as the Joe character). The movie itself was wonderful to look at, and easy to lose one's self within.

The other key aspect of the movie was title character, Simon. When I first saw the previews for this, I thought that it could be good, but it could also be awkward and painful to watch. There is a place for painful and awkward movies, I suppose, but most often I choose to avoid them. When I rented the DVD of "Simon Birch," I was willing to watch, but was still expecting it to be somewhat of an ordeal, like taking bitter medicine. I was so surprised! It does convey the considerable pain of the characters' circumstances, yet it is also a story that is fluid with grace and tremendous joy. I was touched, and I was also happy and uplifted. The entire cast was stellar, especially the young boys who played Simon and Joe. Everyone was awesome. What an accomplishment! I gave it a 10.
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8/10
A little gem
David Vasser26 January 2007
This film is a coming of age piece about a young man with obvious disadvantages that would have beat down most people. Yet he manages to find God's plan for him while showing those who doubted him that he had the right stuff all along. There are other subplot misdirections but that is the main thrust.

Ian Smith, who plays the title lead, is very small in stature, but he has giant talents. I'm surprised he hasn't been cast in other films yet.

An engrossing, sometimes funny and sometimes sad film that I found to be remarkably well made. Everyone involved should be proud of it. One of the better little films I've seen lately and frankly it is better than some major films release lately. Very pleasantly surprised when I stumbled onto it on WGN and plan to view it again uninterrupted on DVD as soon as I can. Why haven't I heard of this film before? An excellent screenplay, skillful direction, plus tight period music, art direction and wardrobe add up to a great early 60's feel. Natural editing, good casting, clear sound even during the big exciting scenes show this to be a well made film all the way around. This is a film for adults about guys growing up physically and emotionally. This is not suitable for children under 18. Not because there is something they shouldn't see in this movie, but instead because they just won't get it.

I saw it last night and I'm still chuckling to myself now and then about the Christmas play scene. Thanks to all involved for making a really, really good movie! It has some laughs, but also made me stop to question what God's plan for my life might be. It restored some of my faith that He does have a plan for those of us who are willing to give Him a chance to lead us to our opportunity to become His instrument. If none of that makes sense to you, you haven't seen this movie!
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8/10
A very good, bittersweet film
john-172926 November 2004
I have watched the movie twice, once with my wife and once with my children.

It is a great movie and totally undeserving of some of the juvenile comments posted here.

It is a story of a 12 year old extremely undersized boy who is a freak to many, a best friend to another and ends up being a hero. All through the movie he talks of God having a plan for him and that his small stature is a part of that plan.

Don't compare it to the book it is "suggested" from. Neither does justice to the other.

Don't miss it.
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10/10
Totally Awesome And A Very Touching Well Made Movie !
dj-parr6 September 2004
This film is by far one of the most moving, well filmed and acted films I have seen in many years. The touching story shows the life of young Simon played perfectly by Ian Michael Smith in a very small, and not always understanding community. It is set beautifully in the 1950s and shows how the inner strength and enormous faith shown by such a little boy afflicted with so many physical problems can have such an influence on those around him along with the respect he would command amongst his piers. The film also stars well known child actor Joseph Mazzello who plays Joe Wenteworth ( Simon's best friend.) Mazzello also starred in Jurassic Park, The River Wild, The Curse etc I think this was Joseph's finest performance yet. It was also very nice to see a cameo performance by Jim Carrey as the grown up Joe, and to see how Jim can be a very convincing serious actor too ! I would like to see more roles of this type from Jim for maybe the years to come ?

The photography was so well executed, and showed such lovely changing seasons through the year it was set. For me there were so many 'post card 'scenes. The pop songs of the 50s used blended perfectly with the film, and also had one of the most lovely and very memorable soundtracks too written by Marc Shaiman.

I must recommend this film to all who have not yet seen it. It scores a 10 on the 'weepie' scale too so be warned !!
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10/10
This is an amazing and brilliant movie. Should be watched by everyone.
famousgir16 November 2001
Simon Birch is an amazing, touching and emotional drama about 12 year old Simon Birch, a small boy who can't grow and believes he has a destiny. The movie is one of the most amazing movies I have ever seen. It's a very well made movie and VERY sad, especially the ending which had me in tears. There were even a couple of funny bits here too, like the scene at the school play.

Simon Birch is played brilliantly by the amazing Ian Michael Smith who gives a fantastic and touching performance. I REALLY hope to see more of him in the future. Joseph Mazzello also gives a great performance as Simon's best friend, Joe Wenteworth. Oliver Platt is also really good here too as Ben Goodrich.

Like I've already is Simon Brich is a brilliant movie and should be watched by everyone of all ages as it's really amazing. It's one of those movies which deserved some Oscar winnings. I give Simon Birch a 10/10. See this movie now, if you haven't already.
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7/10
a feel-good story line
Keith F. Hatcher16 May 2004
A lad with stunted growth who holds out with brave optimism and sheer good-naturedness is able to go through school life and survive any antagonisms with aplomb, indeed, forging an inseparable friendship, as he approaches his twelfth and fatal year.

Beautifully told story, with excellent photography and good music keeping just the right atmosphere, this is a film which might have some downgrading it to a simple `tear-jerker' and reaching for inexhaustible supplies of paper-handkerchiefs. But the story-line is more subtle and more carefully played out, such that in effect the film does not even try to pull out any angst from those softer-at-heart: the acting itself - especially that of Ian Michael Smith - and the focussing of the story rises above this. However, this is of course a `feel-good' story, though the end might leave you thinking otherwise.

Once again, how nice to see an attractive film without violence or sex being the main protagonists.

I would not mind trying to find the book................
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7/10
Delicately balanced
stefan-1443 March 2003
A film of many charming features, indeed, but what struck me as the most impressive quality of it, was its delicate balance between comedy and tragedy. Strolling ahead on a tight rope, with abyss on either side - that of despair and that of burlesque - and never falling. It even succeeds in a most daring balance between pity and parody.

Portraying a boy with such a severe physical handicap, and with terrible parents at that, would normally tie any director's hands and feet, and the result would be sweet, at best. In this film, though, we are even allowed to smile at the odd clashes between the normal and that which is not, and laugh at the situation comedy evolving. The result is endearing, truly compassionate.

And the acting is tremendous, especially from Joseph Mazzello and Ian Michael Smith, the two boys in a very odd couple friendship. Mazzello is breathtaking in scenes of such emotional complexity that most actors would be wise to find an easy way out. I have no idea how he does it, but certainly it is by talent - no schooling gives that kind of tools.

The plot is overly complex, with several 'deus ex machina' events uncalled for, et cetera - probably in fear that the skilled balance of the film and the nerve of the acting would not suffice. But they do, and then some.
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Really good movie, very little flaws.
Cowman16 April 2000
There was something that compelled me to see this movie. I don't know what it was, maybe subliminal messages in the TV ads or something. After all, why would I watch a movie like this when some of my favorite films are "Blood Sucking Freaks", "Nekromantik", and "Cutting Moments"?

Anyhow, I eventually rented this movie and watched it, and to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. The story was very well acted, well written, and tear-jerking.

Sure, there were a FEW flaws, which was why I rated it with an "8", such as some ridiculous, unrealistic plot twists, and the film's attempt to be TOO upsetting. It was like the director/writer said "All right. We're gonna make this film for the sole purpose of having our viewers cry, dammit! And we're not just gonna have 'em cry once, we're gonna MAKE them cry THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF THE MOVIE! And they're gonna like it, dammit!" (Not that I cried THIS much, but you can tell they obviously tried.)

All in all, a good film that shouldn't be avoided.
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10/10
Its all about Faith
Gary3 February 2002
There are a lot of people who will see this and probably not understand its message,but then again there are a lot of people who will see it and realize movies such as this come along very rarely.Simon Birch is a man within a boys body with a specific purpose and a simple message for mankind.You see,Simon is a little different from other boys his age,but then again,so was all of God's chosen.He's a little of all of us to be sure,yet he has one thing that few have.Simon is blessed with unmoving,solid as the rock its founded on FAITH.Nothing anyone says or does will change this.He will be picked on,poked,prodded,and teased but this fact will ever remain.The brotherly love that bonds Simon and his best friend will remind you of times long thought forgotten and memories you will treasure always.Its rare indeed that a movie will make you laugh,cry,and otherwise feel that true love for life and mankind exists in this world as it is today.This movie is that special.Just like Simon.
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10/10
beautiful
jacepi_rules28 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
When i watched this movie it was the most moving,movie ever. the ending of the movie was the so sad but happy at the same time. i loved how Simon asked Joe if he could go before passing away, it was so beautiful, to me it showed the loyalty that the boys had for each other. the way that the boys were they for each other no matter what and were

best friends forever was really inspiring to me.this really opened my eyes to see people for what they r on the inside not on the outside i love it!! its the best movie ever!! I'm even buying it so i can watch it over and over again!!
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10/10
The Simplicity
Ruby Real11 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
My first thought when I finish watching the movie was... "They don't make movies like this anymore". Right now, it's all about big explosion and higher budget movie which surely will bring in more money. I was glad that my mum made me watch the movie; it is a kind of movie I'd watch again and again and have at least ten box of tissue stack up beside me.

It's just a simple story of a boy who have growth problem and his best friend. And how they're always there for each other no matter what happens. A movie about a child's believe, what he wants to believe and what others want him to believe. A movie about unbreakable friendship, no matter what happen in between, not even death could break it apart. Now that's something.

I like how everything looked and sound truthful, how every shot was perfected that everything seem believable to me. I like how the screen play writer portray the friendship between Simon and Joe. It surprise me how Joe can be such a grown up (dealing with his mother's death) and a teenager/kid (around Simon) at times and how outspoken Simon was.

Overall, I find the movie a very good movie to watch. It's the kind of movie that warms your heart and shows you a little bit about life that you probably will never experience in your lifetime. It's about a friendship, beliefs, memories, love and everything else that you can hardly see in movie these days.
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1/10
horrible, cheesy, and incredibly sappy
nostiller-15 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS This movie was unbearable to watch. At every possible moment, the movie manipulates you. Most of the things in this movie are extremely improbable, for example, is it even physically possible to die from being hit in the head with a baseball? The kids are bad actors and most of the adults overact. There are many huge plot flaws. For example, I don't think that Joe wouldn't have been mad at all that Simon killed his mom. the movie was also really, really sappy. Most of the dialog was very clichéd and the characters are all one dimensional. The jokes between Simon and Joe are so bad that it is unbearable to watch them and it makes me squirm to hear them.
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5/10
A shameless wallow...
moonspinner556 February 2006
Young boy in early-'60s small town America, born illegitimate to the prettiest lady in the community, learns about life--laughter, love, triumphs and tragedies--alongside his best friend, an undersized 12-year-old named Simon Burch who has a precocious manner and a feeling that he is destined to be a hero. Sentimental childhood remembrances, sometimes done with a comical bent, and nearly always put over with broad strokes. All the main children in the story are well cast, and the film is genuinely heartfelt (so much so that only a true curmudgeon would balk at its tearful inevitabilities), and yet only the subtler moments leave a lasting impression. Much of the noisy comedy, ostensibly present to make this a crowd pleaser, is cutesy-poo, hammered home with silly glee. The picture is fluid and graceful, it has touching passages, but it is also a button-pushing, shameless wallow in sentimental nostalgia. ** from ****
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3/10
Read the book instead.
mollypick12 August 2005
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, is my very favorite book. When I found out it was being made into a movie, I was initially excited...until I learned that John Irving requested that the main character's name and movie title be changed to avoid it being associated with the book. This was a bad sign, but I went to see it anyway.

Perhaps the book couldn't have been adapted, but no movie at all would have been better than this. It turns a tragic story of friendship and faith into a clichéd "hero" tale. Now when I describe my favorite book to those who haven't read it, I cringe when they mention they have seen a movie that sounds similar.
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It has a lot of heart, but not enough to overcome its many flaws
Gouda-36 May 1999
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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1/10
I can't believe how many people say they love this movie
beakypenguin9 June 2005
This film is a travesty. It claims to be inspired by John Irving's novel "A Prayer for Owen Meany" but it utterly lacks any of the charm and deep meaning the novel carries. The film's characters are cardboard cutouts of human beings, the plot is pure Disneyana, the spiritual message is pap.

Somewhere there is a leak. Someone somewhere read this novel and turned it into this screenplay, not unlike someone who hears The Beatles' "Hey Jude" and turns it into the version you hear while riding in an elevator. Whoever this person is, (s)he deserves to be taken out and, well, forced to watch this movie.

Do yourself a huge favor. Skip the trip to the video store and go to the library instead. "A Prayer for Owen Meany" is a beautiful book with layers upon layers of meaning. This film is a sad zombie of the book. Simon Birch *looks* like Owen Meany, but he is possessed by a different spirit.
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Really touching
crazygirl_me_nokia21 December 2003
The movie is original, fresh and really touching. It makes you appreciate life and the people who share it with you. 'Joe' had 4 people die in a short period of time. It was inevitable that Simon would die, but he didn't expect to die whilst saving others. Never take the people around you for granted as you may loose them before you know it. I was crying so much through it as it's a definite wake up call that life will one day stop. You have to watch it and learn from it. Filmed perfectly with a great choice of actors.
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1/10
Sorely birched
g-g-mackie13 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is a highly political film.

It makes huge moral and value comments about life.

This is all done using slick production and casting principles. If you believe that small town American life is all-redeeming in terms that it ultimately allows outsiders to be accepted then you will believe that this film is somehow based on reality. The plot is wafer-thin and the depictions of people and prejudices are wince-worthy. Why?

The eponymous hero is a vertically challenged child who believes that his existence has divine reason. Here lies the first problem. Simon's existence is challenged by almost everyone in the small town society treating him as sub-human except for the 'angelic' Mrs Dario Franchetti (for US -centric viewers she is commonly known as Ashely Judd). The 'community' is the community of oppression- we don't want 'freaks' like you here Simon Birch' as we are told by the children and adults. As the plot unfolds, we are led to believe that there is a whole- community epiphany based upon the near-death experience by a bus load of primary school pupils. (not sure which 'graders' they are in US speak).

The hero dies. We all cry. Life is not like this.

Its easy to label films as rubbish so I won't. A lot of effort went into making this work BUT I have to say that it has been a long time since I have had such a prickly reaction to a plot. If you believe this is good film, you will believe anything

Gordon
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1/10
A very small kid that almost knowone cared for is convinced that God has a plan for him
moezabian8 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THIS PLEASE EMAIL ME

This movie is truly terrible. Yes i know that by reading this line many

will disagree. Now don't get me wrong yes it was very tragic in the end when Simon dies after the heroic deed that he did, most people care very little for him. But that's not the point movies like this have been done before many times, so you might ask yourself what is so different about this movie then other ones? Why choose this movie as oppose to another one? Most people don't understand the point; the thing that makes this movie so unique is that Simon was very short. So when I saw this I asked myself when he saved all those people then why didn't the producers utilize his height? They did all this with an extremely short person and when saved all those people from the bus it had should have had something to do with his height. THIS GIVES THE ENDING AWAY, Simon Birch just opened the back door of the bus and said "stop it", then he gave his little speech. If he was 3 inches smaller, if he was 6 foot 8, if he was 4 foot 3, if he was… You get my point, he would have been able to save them anyway, it would have been better if they utilized height but they didn't. Another thing that was done poorly was Joseph's (Simon's best friend) mom was the only person who cared for Simon and when she died you'd think that Simon's life who have been worse and people would be treating him a lot worse. IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THIS PLEASE EMAIL ME
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1/10
John Irving must be appalled
anmacleod6 July 2001
What a travesty that such an amazing novel could be made into such utter fluff! If you enjoyed Owen Meany, do not rent this film thinking you'll get the same kind of pleasure. I fastforwarded through half of Simon Birch and didn't miss a beat. The characters were incredibly one dimensional and Simon came across as about as profound as melba toast. The book inspired deep thoughts and complex emotions; the movie made me want to watch reruns of Friends in search of something with more substance. Truly a disappointment!
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1/10
Manipulative and awful [SPOILERS]
Kyle Westphal30 October 1999
Warning: Spoilers
The Plot: The year is 1964. In a small town, there is a boy named Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) who is quite short. In fact, he was the shortest delivery ever made in the county. His parents do not care about him. So, he spends all his time with his friend Joe (Joseph Mazzello, and later and uncredited Jim Carrey, who is telling this tale). Joe never knew who his father was. He gets a bit irritated when his mother, Rebecca (Ashley Judd) starts dating Ben (Oliver Platt). Meanwhile, Simon believes that he is "God's Instrument". With this delusion, he sets off to right the wrongs of the church, the town, and practically everything and everyone that opposes him.

My Critique: "Simon Birch" is arguably one of the worst films ever to be shown in a cinema. There really is no reason to like Simon. He is a hypocritical hero, but not in the style of the classic Jack Nicholson antihero of the 1970's. Simon believes he is "God's Instrument" and tries to right the wrongs of society, yet it seems Simon is the most corrupt. At some points, he is downright perverted, such as when he verbally ogles Rebecca. At other times, he simply defies authority for no legitimate reason except for the reason he believes he is right and people are mean, such as breaking into the Reverend's office. When the viewer isn't hating Simon, they are hating something else about this "movie". I find it hard to take this film seriously when its plot becomes wacky and downright improbable. For instance, Simon plays Little League baseball but the coach never puts him in. Then the coach puts him in for the first time. In fact, this is probably the first time Simon has ever hit a baseball. So what happens when he swings the bat? Simon hits the ball out of the park ... and it lands on Rebecca's head. She is killed instantly. Now, just think about that. What are the odds Simon actually hits the ball ... hits it out of the park ... it happens to land on the head of his best friend's mother ... and the force is so strong, it actually kills her in seconds? But the worst thing is that Joe is cool about it. He isn't even angered at Simon for killing his mother, the only family he had left. At one point, Simon and Joe get arrested for breaking into the Reverend's office and nearly destroying it. Ben doesn't care and takes them out for ice cream. These are just some the absurd, perverted, twisted, and, oh yes, manipulative moments in "Simon Birch".

At one point Simon blurts out in the middle of church that "If the church bake sale is God's priority, then we're all in trouble". Frankly, if this movie is a film lover's priority, we're all in trouble.

My Rating : 1
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3/10
Read the book. Skip the movie.
Brent Trafton15 January 2006
After reading the novel "A Prayer for Owen Meaney" by John Irving, I was wondering why they changed the name of the main character in the film "Simon Birch." After seeing the film the answer was obvious. The author did not want his great novel associated with this mess.

"A Prayer for Owen Meaney" is over 600 pages long and impossible to reduce to a 2 hour movie. This movie is a travesty and an insult to an excellent novel.

The directing and music are strictly television quality. David Strathairn gives a good performance and Ashley Judd lights up the screen in her short role.

Not all great novels can be adapted for the screen. "A Prayer for Owen Meaney" is one of those. This movie does not capture the quality that made the book so special.
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8/10
this movie is a miracle!
lcarr-212 February 2005
I saw Simon Birch for the first time yesterday. I rarely see a film when it first is released so I did not remember anything about its previews. it was not anything that I expected. I expected cute but it was better, not just cute.

it was philosophy and religion. Simon has his own philosophy about life. He challenged adults and they did not approve of it. He challenged the religious teaching that he was given, but they did not know how to handle it. it was values. Simon and Joe knew right from wrong. It was part of how they lived during the fifty's and sixty's. it was truth. At the age of twelve, physical development is natural for everyone, even for the small Simon. He could feel the urges and desires that others feel for the first time. He could sees Joe's mom as a sexual beauty and he said it. it is one of those great stories about growing up. Joe was the person who the story was really about but Joe was not the interesting character. in 1964, Joe had to grow up in many ways. Just like Simon, he was beginning to notice the opposite sex. He wanted to know more about himself and who he was. It was his best friend, Simon, who helped him to do this. It was his best friend Simon who helped him when his mother died. It was his best friend Simon who helped him when he learned the truth about his father. It was his best friend Simon who helped him realize who he was and what he could accomplish.

everyone needs a friend like Simon to grow up with, and even after Simon died, he was still part of Joe's development. everyone should see this movie once. I want to see it again and again.
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10/10
A very heartfelt touching movie!
bean13emv18 November 2002
This movie is excellent. I would recommend it to absolutely anyone. It is definatly a tear jerker that anyone can enjoy. Very touching, loving story! This one will DEFINATLY go on my top ten movie list!..... This story makes you open your eyes to a very different world and makes you want to help all those you can. EXCELLENT!
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Magical Quality
Jill-200030 September 2002
A beautiful tale with an magical quality, Simon Birch, is a surprising gem of a movie.

This is one of those movies to watch to restore your faith in humanity.

A great family film that will tug at the hearts of kids and parents alike.
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