1998; Rated PG; 113 Minutes
Ian Michael Smith: Simon Birch
Joseph Mazello: Joe Wenteworth
Ashley Judd: Rebecca Wenteworth
Oliver Platt: Ben Goodrich
David Strathairn: Rev. Russel
Produced by John
Baldecchi, Roger Birnbaum, Howard Ellis, Billy Higgins and
Laurence Mark; Directed and screenwritten by Mark
by DAVID KEYES
has some big problems. They have so many that it's unbelievable.
you have to do is to look at a bad movie of the past few
years (and I know everyone has seen them!). Hollywood and
it's film makers, producers, directors, writers, etc. have
been in the business since the late 1910s and the early
1920s, and as time passes by, so do the qualities of movies.
The resources and limits change just as the time does, and
as these times change, film makers often try to correct
flaws or problems that audiences felt existed with past
failures, or 'flops.' In other words, they try to learn
from their mistakes.
they do, sometimes they don't. But recently, it occurred
to me that for the past two years or so, it seems like more
people just continue their mistakes when they make movies.
The results are often terrible experiences, both to audiences
and to box office numbers.
Hollywood not care about their past mistakes and problems?
Do they only care about the profit and promotion they'll
get out of it? Are they running out of ideas? There could
be several reasons, but no excuses for why Hollywood doesn't
improve upon the history film has provided for the past
70 years. Oh yes, history of film making dates WAY back,
and if so-called great directors, writers and producers
can't even refer back to the past, how do they ever expect
to get better in the future?
more to the subject than meets the eye, and if you're looking
for an example of such lackluster, uninspired attempts at
movie making, go see "Simon Birch" and watch the mayhem
a roller-coaster ride for first-time director/screenwriter
Mark Steven Johnson, it's a sad excuse and absolute dead-on
example of how little today's moviemakers pay attention
to the problems of the past, and the potential flaws of
the future if no immediate actions are taken. I fear that
if Mr. Johnson doesn't learn from this mistake, he has no
business making movies.
let's hope that's not true, because he has had some worthy
efforts in writing. You may recall his name on the writing
credits of "Grumpy Old Men," a movie which, I felt, was
one of the most funny and inspired films of the 90s. Now
this is evidence that Johnson has the right moves to make
a movie's material work correctly, so what's with "Simon
it's the pressure of converting a John Irving novel that
screwed him up. Irving's "A Prayer For Owen Meany," one
of the most acclaimed books in America, is the story of
an almost impossible friendship between a young, quirky
little midget and a boy who turns out to be the only one
in town to appreciate the midget on the inside. The midget
is an expressive little guy with a mind of steel, a heart
of gold, and, apparently, a mouth of a lady wrestler. He
preaches his beliefs and feelings against Sunday school,
stage productions, etc., which degrade his respect in town,
all while a friendly local boy consistently stays by his
side, as a momentum of true friendship.
must forgive me if I sound inaccurate, but I've never actually
read the book myself. I've merely collected portions of
how its story is setup, and nothing more. Though, what I've
heard, the novel is likely a masterpiece speaking in terms
of emotion and struggle, all by John Irving, one of the
best writers to ever exist.
now, there's "Simon Birch," a movie adaptation which is
merely "suggested" by Irving's material, rather than based
on it. Perhaps, if the book is really as good as everyone
says, the "suggested" tag line in the opening credits would
have been more appropriate if it had read "ripped off by."
Steven Johnson brings us a similar tale, though with inept
and unfocused tastes all set up on its main character. The
movie is a somewhat misguided adaptation, focusing on mere
moments of the midget's knowledge and wisdom to hold the
audience attention. There's absolutely no feeling whatsoever
for the little "moppet," as one critic calls him, as he
openly admits his beliefs about the Sunday school, among
other things which, notably, really "tee" him off.
is kind of dumb in the way Simon's character is set up.
The material's progression to the end with its passion and
influence on the audience is somewhat like that of "Forrest
Gump" and "Powder," in a matter of speaking. Yet, when all
is said and done, these movies are extremely different when
it comes to what the audience actually feels for the title
character. "Forrest Gump" is a masterpiece of direction
and conception, while "Powder" is just okay, even though
its title character was at least an influence on feeling
something special for those who are different. "Simon Birch"
is portrayed like an annoying, overstated little brat who
seems to think that he can be a great hero, thus every word
he speaks and every action he takes will likely not make
the audience feel anything for his character, other than
the pity of being outcast. There are about two seconds in
the whole movie that have deep feeling in them, and nothing
more, other than outspoken opinions.
considers himself to be a hero with the way he remarks and
speaks about others, but what's so heroic about it? This
is a character who, you can tell, could be an adorable one
in the movies, because that's what his personality feels
and looks like. When that cute face gets up and remarks
something negative to the church, does he think that's going
to help his image? Does he think that his beliefs and opinions
are actually going to matter to these people? Does he even
think about the risk of being outcast by people who completely
disagree with him?
a hero, he's a shallow, disoriented one, somewhat reminiscent
of "Bulworth," though not with the bad language.
about these types of characters can work great, to extents,
if the characters are portrayed precise to how they develop.
If one such person accomplishes tasks that don't fit his
general personality, like the one in this movie, then the
movie's a mess.
without a doubt, "Simon Birch" is a mess of film making.
The several descriptions I have left you with in this review
may not necessarily influence a decision for you to decide
if you should see the movie or not, but that's the way I
must leave it. If you can't quite picture what I'm trying
to say with "Simon Birch," than why even consider seeing
1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.