Reviewed by: Jason Murphy
“Simon Birch” is loosely based on the novel “A Prayer for Owen Meany” and is a story about a young boy who was born with a disease that stunted his growth, and almost ended his life before it had begun. As a result of his survival, Simon Birch believes that God has a plan for his life, and that God is going to make him a hero, and clings to that belief with the unwavering faith of a child.
I must admit, I was thrilled when I first heard about this film. It is very rare that a good, thoughtful film comes out about faith, and I had high hopes for this film. Unfortunately, this movie disappointed me simply because it had the potential to be so much more than it was.
Which is not to say “Simon Birch” is a terrible film. Overall, it’s not too bad. The cinematography is beautiful, and the film uses music with occasional flashes of brilliance, though sometimes too intrusively. The acting is wonderful, especially Ian Michael Smith, as Simon. The movie is sometimes very funny, sometimes times heart wrenching.
The film follows Simon’s life, as told by his best friend, Joe Wentworth, another boy who is also somewhat of an outcast: he is an illegitimate child, without a clue as to who his father is. As both of them search for the answers in their life, their story unfolds.
While all this has the potential of a great moving film, I felt that the movie was held back by the screenplay in several points. First, I felt that there was too much unwarranted profanity from the children. While the kids were not nearly as bad as “South Park,” for example, I felt that the all too frequent swear words and crude language detracted greatly from the film’s overall tone. Second, the screenplay seemed somewhat heavy-handed and manipulative at times. Third, I felt the ending was not well developed enough. All of these hurt the film significantly.
However, to those who enjoy dramas, and those will not be overly offended by the profanity, I’d recommend (though not wholeheartedly) “Simon Birch”. While not a great film, and definitely not for small kids, it is still a somewhat thought-provoking and moving drama.
Year of Release—1998