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Simon Birch

609 customer reviews

Additional DVD options Edition Discs
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(May 18, 1999)
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Editorial Reviews

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!

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

Special Features

Theatrical Trailer

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), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • 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 (609 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0788815466
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,912 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Simon Birch" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 2000
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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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca on September 9, 2001
Format: DVD
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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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By G. Regalado on January 16, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By tomato cow on November 20, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth G. Pittman on October 6, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Simon Birch is one of those movies that yes, it does have a couple things out of place like a little launguage and sexual innuendos, but at the end of the movie you aren't thinking about any of that stuff unless you are reminded. Simply put- the movie is brilliant.
Ian Michael Smith plays Simon Birch very well- although I think his part was so well written that it would have been hard not to play in well. But the real star of this movie, in my opinion, is Joseph Mazzello. Joe can take any part that is written and make it his own and in many cases make the movie- it's no wonder Speilberg changed the kids in Jurassic Park so that Joe could play in it. However, this movie out of all of his (yes, even including The Cure) is probably his most well-acted. His maturity shows in this movie compared to say, The River Wild. It is really a shame that we haven't seen anything from Joe since this.
For Joe Mazzello fans, this and the Cure are must owns. However, this movie appeals to a wide audience (someone has made the comment they couldn't figure out whether this was meant to appeal to adults or kids- I say both) and would be a good family film if you are willing to look past a small amount of launguage and a couple sexual comments/situations that are mainly just to show what kids are like for those that have forgot (I'd say most kids above 11 or so could easily handle this).
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