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Simon Birch (1998)

Joseph Mazzello , Oliver Platt , Mark Steven Johnson  |  PG |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (472 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Joseph Mazzello, Oliver Platt, David Strathairn, Dana Ivey, Ian Michael Smith
  • Directors: Mark Steven Johnson
  • Writers: Suggested By The Novel "A Prayer For Owen Meany" B, Written For The Screen By Mark Steven Johnson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Letterboxed, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Hollywood Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 18, 1999
  • Run Time: 114 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (472 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0788815466
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,162 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Simon Birch" on IMDb

Special Features

Theatrical Trailer

Editorial Reviews

This screen adaptation of John Irving's novel A Prayer for Owen Meany was appreciated much more by audiences than by the majority of disapproving critics. Irving's books have fared only moderately well on film, and while The World According to Garp garnered critical praise, The Hotel New Hampshire was waiting in the wings to counteract the fanfare. Simon Birch is one of those nostalgic movies--determined to view the past in rose-colored hues--despite the fact that its protagonist, a dwarf named Simon Birch, is wholeheartedly unsympathetic. The film opens weepily, with Jim Carrey as the adult version of the film's main character and narrator, Joe Wenteworth (played as a youth by the serious young actor Joseph Mazzello). He's mourning at the grave of his best childhood friend, Simon Birch, with whom he had bonded instantly because both were misfits--one a dwarf, the other illegitimate. The deck is stacked from the beginning, especially when the camera dwells on Joe's luscious mom, Rebecca (Ashley Judd), who refuses to reveal the identity of Joe's father, which in turn urges Simon and Joe to embark on a quest to discover Joe's paternity. In a plot point that resembles The Scarlet Letter, the tide of fate turns on the "immoral" mom just as she's on the verge of finding true love with a decent fellow (played by Oliver Platt). Simon Birch ultimately descends into crudeness, though it asks the audience to continue to engage with its crass lead character. By the end, the film is reduced to drivel, cliché, and melodrama to tug our heartstrings into submission. All the things that should have been the film's focus--guilt, self-loathing, and redemption--remain elusive. --Paula Nechak

Product Description

A heartwarming and funny hit that's earned overwhelming critical acclaim, SIMON BIRCH features great performances from stars Ashley Judd (DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD, HIGH CRIMES, KISS THE GIRLS) and Oliver Platt (BICENTENNIAL MAN, DON'T SAY A WORD) in an outstanding cast! Even though Simon Birch is the smallest kid in town, deep down he knows that he was born to do something big! He's on a constant search to discover his destiny, but somehow manages to find nothing but trouble! Meanwhile, Simon's loyal best friend, Joe (Joseph Mazzello -- JURASSIC PARK, RADIO FLYER), is searching for the identity of his father, a secret his beautiful mother (Judd) has guarded Joe's entire life. Discover for yourself the undeniable charms of this uplifting and inspirational motion picture as these two share the hilarious, and sometimes tragic, ups and downs that will forever bind them together!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watch the film. Read the book! January 23, 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
I had to see Simon Birch from the moment I realized it was based on my favorite novel of all time: A Prayer For Owen Meany. I had an almost private screening - since I was only one of four to buy a ticket for the afternoon's matinee. I can't tell you in this small space how the story of Simon moved me. Simon's faith is pure and beautiful. It is encouraging, honest and inspiring. See the movie. Show it to the kids in your life. Help them (and yourself) to see the promise and purpose in their lives. If you are at all moved, and haven't already done so, read John Irving's A Prayer For Owen Meany. Of Course the novel couldn't be accurately portrayed on the screen, that's okay. I'm glad that no one attempted to put Owen on the screen. He's alive in the hearts and minds of those touched by the novel. Simon is now alive in my heart, too.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching and heartwarming! September 9, 2001
By Rebecca
I loved SIMON BIRCH. So far, I've seen it twice: once in the theaters, and once on video. Both times it gave me watery eyes at the end! I usually don't cry when watching movies. If the film is really sad, then I might just get watery eyes. That's the closet to crying that I get when watching movies.
SIMON BIRCH is about two very different best friends growing up in the '60s. Joe Wenteworth (Joseph Mazzello) is your typical twelve-year-old boy in search for the identity of his father, a secret his young, beautiful mother, Rebecca Wenteworth (Ashley Judd) has been keeping from him ever since he was born. Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) is also twelve years old, but he's much shorter than most twelve-year-olds. In fact, he is a dwarf (or midgit) who had a heart defect when he was born. Simon's parents don't care about him at all, and so he usually spends most of his time with Joe's family. Everyone in town makes fun of Simon because of his short size and unique personality, always insisting that God has a plan for everyone and that he will one day become a hero, as God planned for him. Jim Carrey narrates the story as the adult Joe. His role surprised me a lot because Jim Carrey usually plays wacky, hilarious roles instead of serious ones. Rebecca also ends up bringing home a boyfriend, Ben (Oliver Pratt), who the young Joe dislikes but learns to like him in the end.
SIMON BIRCH is just a really amazing, inspiring film. All the actors are at their best - each one deserves Oscars! The real star of the film is Joseph Mazzello, who has always been a favorite actor of mine. I'm waiting for him to make another movie. Hopefully he will, soon! Ian Michael Smith is perfect in his debut film role. Ashley Judd has never played her part so well, and Oliver Pratt is also amazing.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars inspiring movie January 16, 2007
My 11 year old saw this movie at school and wouldn't stop talking about it or asking for it. Since we couldn't find it at any store we amazoned it and there it was!!. Part of his Christmas present, he loves it. This movie is very inspiring and from what he says it makes him have hope in other people and what we can do to help others.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Heartfelt, Funny & Deep as the Ocean' November 20, 2006
I love this film for many reasons. To me, it has all the elements of a great story: comedy, tragedy, a good dose of authentic 'americana' (set in coastal Maine), interesting and 'real' characters, a timeless message, powerful archetypes, 'real' emotion and a great soundtrack. What more can you ask for?

The film centers around an endearing friendship between two young boys. One, without a father, and the other deformed and virtually disowned by his family, yet born with an uncanny awareness of his destiny and life purpose, which the film eventually plays out. The bond that is developed in this story between the two boys is very affecting. Realistic, without getting at all 'sappy'. All the characters in the film are excellent and fit exceedingly well. The Rev. Russell, Simon, Joe Wentworth, Ben Goodrich and the lovely Ashley Judd as Joe's mother are all superbly portrayed, and each are characters one develops a good deal of empahy for during the course of the film. Even the reverend, a shadow of a man, tormented by the spineless choices of his past is portrayed in his humanity as one deserving of mercy and understanding.

The movie is at times hysterically funny too. I mean, really very, very funny! The Christmas Pagaent scene is one of the funniest things I"ve ever seen... maybe because I grew up in that traditional New England atmosphere and have lived through my own version of it!

Jim Carey, playing a serious role, makes two brief appearances in the film (at the beginning and the end) as the adult Joe Wentworth, and he fits great in that role. The acting of Joseph Mazzello as the young Joe is among the best acting jobs I've seen by a young person. He steps into the character perfectly.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hidden treasure June 29, 2001
Its rare for me to find a film in the video store which is a real discovery. I catch a lot of films in first run but this one went under my radar. I had scarcely heard of it but picked it up on a lark, perhaps because it had a Siskel/ Ebert 2 thumbs up recommend on the cover. Having watched it I came in to read how others reacted to it and I am happy to see so many people have also fallen in love with the film. Perhaps understandably, though I can't relate, the few people that seem to dislike the film are people who have read the book and some professional critics. I can't add much that hasn't already been said but I found the film totally charming. The music score is lush and perfectly enhances the mood and tone of the film. Ashley Judd is at her very best looking gorgeous and so sweet and kind you can completely understand how Simon could have a crush on her. Oliver Platt turns in a winning performance as the kid-smart boyfriend. While Simon is given title billing the film is really about two friends whose stories are given equal weight. Simon Birches death is an important part of the film but isn't the core. There are emotional moments of all sorts throughout the film. So while the ending was emotional, it wasn't an unnecessary tag on death like the one in Pay if Forward. We know Simon is going to die as the story starts out in a cemetary. How that comes about kept me curious. Anyway it was a great experience to pick up a film you don't expect to be so good. I am glad I caught it. I thought it was kind of neat to discover Jim Carrey requested that his name be removed from the film because he was concerned people would get the wrong idea about the kind of film it was if his name was associated with it. He plays an characteristically tender small role as the "Wonder Years" style narrator who bookends opening and closing of the film and does such a nice job it is almost impossible to imagine him as the same guy who played Ace Ventura.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great family friendly movie.
Published 13 days ago by amazon addict
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it
Good sweet movie! Will watch over and over!!
Published 14 days ago by Forgivensinner
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great movie
Published 15 days ago by ralph stansel
4.0 out of 5 stars How sad and sweet
What a delightful movie. How sad and sweet. What terrific kids they both were. We could all learn a lot about acceptance from this movie.
Published 16 days ago by katnoah
2.0 out of 5 stars If you read the book, you will be disappointed.
This wasn't terrible but it wasn't great. It had a few touching moments, but for someone who read the book it was based on (The Prayer of Owen Meany), it was a HUGE... Read more
Published 16 days ago by L. Webb
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Choice of stars says it all
Published 18 days ago by Jane Hughes
5.0 out of 5 stars Simon says...
What's not to love about Simon Birch... loved it!!! The character of this kid spoke absolute truth and delivers it with directness!!!
Published 21 days ago by Jewel of Virginia
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favs!!
I saw this movie years ago and loved it! I just rented it so my kids could see it. Such and incredibly sweet story told with the perfect sense of humor :)
Published 25 days ago by Jillian
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
WONDERFUL movie... everyone should watch, touches your HEART
Published 1 month ago by Sonya
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful movie. Great for the entire family.
Published 1 month ago by Kevin F
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