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Rated 2.98 stars
by 1301 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
So Small, So Brave
by Betty Jo Tucker

Surrounding viewers with an aura of artistic perfection, Simon Birch emerges as a little bit of movie heaven. If first-time director Mark Steven Johnson, who also wrote the screenplay, never helms another movie, he can rest on his laurels with this one. Exploring themes of friendship, family and faith with a keen eye and humanistic touch, Johnson has created a witty, profound film that touched me deeply.

Inspired by John Irving’s novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, this appealing film version focuses on Simon (Ian Smith), a young boy so small at birth he could be "sneezed out" by his mother. Simon yearns to know what God’s plan is for him. Despite his abnormally small stature, he has a heart of heroic proportions.

Rejected by his own family, Simon forms strong bonds with the fatherless Joe (Joseph Mazzello) and his sympathetic mother (Ashley Judd). When tragedy strikes Joe’s family, Simon helps his friend discover the truth about his real father. Finally, when a terrible accident threatens the lives of a group of young children, Simon proves size is not as important as courage.

Serious stuff, right? Yet Simon Birch features some very funny scenes. Like most viewers, I couldn’t keep from laughing out loud while watching a miscast Christmas play fall apart. And I still chuckle to myself thinking about that hilarious scene depicting two youngsters facing an imagined monster in a large paper bag.

Johnson assembled a dream cast for Simon Birch. Smith and Mazzello give incredibly poignant performances as the two young pals. Ashley Judd (Kiss the Girls) never looked lovelier; Jan Hooks (Saturday Night Live) reveals true comic genius in her portrayal of the Sunday school teacher from Hell; and the always believable David Strathairn (The River Wild) excels as a pathetic minister no congregation deserves. In a welcome change of pace, Oliver Platt (Dr. Dolittle) is convincing as a responsible, solid drama teacher who falls for Joe’s mother. Megastar Jim Carrey ties everything together nicely as the film’s narrator.

"Simon Birch focuses only on the first part of Irving’s novel, but I tried to keep the spirit of the rest of the book," Johnson explains. "I hope this movie will encourage people not to wait to tell those they love how much they care about them."

Amen to that.

(Released by Hollywood Pictures and rated "PG" for language, emotional thematic elements, and an accident scene.)


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