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Simon is a 12-year-old dwarf child in a small New England town who is convinced he is destined by God for great heroism.
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Review by Jon Zuck
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S
IMON BIRCH
(1998)

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I asked my recent good friend Jon to write this review for Hollywood Jesus. He felt as I did that this was a significant film. Jon has had an incredible Spiritual Journey during which he has embraced a number of different Christian Traditions. -David Bruce 
Simon Birch: Ian Michael Smith, Joe Wenteworth: Joseph Mazzello, Rebecca Wenteworth: Ashley Judd, Ben Goodrich: Oliver Platt, The Rev. Russell: David Strathairn.

Written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson.

Suggested by the novel ``A Prayer for Owen Meany'' by John Irving.

Running time: 110 minutes. Rated PG (for language, emotional thematic elements, and an accident scene).

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Review by Jon Zuck
http://surf.to/frimmin/

Not since Seven Years in Tibet have I seen the critics lining up so enthusiastically to destroy a movie this brilliant. Apparently the reason is due to direct comparisons of Simon Birch with the beloved book which inspired it, A Prayer for Owen Meany.  Not having read that, I can't compare it to the book, but I wouldn’t want to. Every film deserves to be judged on its merits alone, and this film’s merits are worthy of taking its place beside the classics of childhood drama such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Stand by Me. There was a time when many audiences expected movies to involve them in laughter, tears, faith and hope. Simon Birch is a movie for such an audience. If you think you qualify, rush to the theater, and see it!

Simon is a 12-year-old dwarf child in a small New England town who is convinced he is destined by God for great heroism.  Well and good, but Simon (Ian Michael Smith) gets into trouble like all prophets do, by not keeping quiet about his faith, to the consternation of everyone who hears his squeaky little voice declare his belief in God’s plans for him, and his contempt for their shallowness. He's not even above interrupting the minister in the middle of the parish announcements, "If God's made the church bake sale a priority, we're in a lot of trouble!" Needless to say, Simon does not win many friends—he's a freak to most children and a bafflement to adults—even his own parents treat him with disdain.

In spite of his difficulties, Simon stays positive. He is humbled and puzzled by the destiny God has for him. He is a loving friend and is especially protective of "little" children (those half his age and twice his size). He's also a normal boy beginning to go girl crazy. This not only leads into side-splitting comic relief, but shows us the greatness of the heart in that tiny body.

Joseph Mazzello (The Cure, Jurassic Park) brilliantly plays Joe Wenteworth, Simon's best friend—a well-mannered, likable child, but also an outcast, known as the town bastard. Joe knows that his father is alive, but his mother refuses to tell him who that is. When Joe’s mother (and Simon’s mother figure) is killed in a freak accident, finding Joe's father becomes a high priority for both boys. Joe and Simon's friendship is one of the most moving childhood friendships on film since Stand by Me. The friends are inseparable, and lean on each other heavily, as they swim, dream, play and cry together. Joe protects Simon, and challenges his convictions. Simon in turn, helps Joe with his anger and pain, and challenges his doubts.

Spiritual themes abound here, but they are unobtrusive. Through Simon, we see the difficulty of being a prophet in a church grown cold, and through Joe, the search for the Father as the key to our identity. They also show us self-sacrifice, the pain of "twelve" surviving "one," and most of all, the beauty of unconditional love.

Ashley Judd’s performance glows as Joe's mother, and throughout, both child actors show themselves as gifted or more so than numerous established movie stars. Simon's and Joe's roles are both demanding, as this is a movie that encompasses all the emotions of life, from low comedy to high drama, with a gentle spirituality. Young Mazzello shines in the difficult task of being Simon's friend, and Ian Michael Smith's performance (his first!) is simply unforgettable. At the ages of fourteen and eleven, respectively, they have proven themselves the equals of some Hollywood greats. At this point, I feel the Oscar for Best Actor should be shared by these two exceptional kids. However, we all know the wise folks at the Academy will never bestow their highest honor upon "mere children." I can dream, can’t I?

BULLETIN BOARD

ALL TIME FAVOURITE
Subject: Simon Birch
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002
From: "DanielChoy"

Simon Birch is most definitely my all time favourite movie - guaranteed to give my tear ducts a very good clean each and every time I watch it. I played the movie recently at a "All You Can Weep" video day and all my colleagues ( who are non Christian) were bawling uncontrollably. Some even made comments and had questions about the themes of God and faith and were genuinely interested in knowing more.

HEROS OF FAITH
Subject: Simon Birch
Date: Sat, 02 Jun 2001
From: Chris

I enjoyed Simon Birch. It combined an entertaining, heartwarming story with a great lesson on faith. Simon is a small person with big faith. He believes that God has great plans for him, and that he will be a hero. Simon fits right in with Hebrews 11 as an "unlikely hero" who is commended for his faith. The people in Hebrews 11 were judged by their faith, not by the law. This is the message Simon conveys when he makes the statement, "If God's made the church bake sale a priority, we're in a lot of trouble." The church represented in Simon Birch has grown cold and focuses more on the law than faith. This is similar to the church in Romans, and Simon can be related to Paul in the message he brings. God makes Simon a hero of faith when he uses him to save children from the sinking bus. This shows us that no matter who we are, or the state we are in (physically, not geographically), if we have faith and put our trust in God, we can be used for great things. I agree with Ron Zuck when he says that this movie also deals with the search for the Father as the key to our identity. Joe, with Simon's help, eventually does find his Father. The opening scene of the movie tells us that Joe as a man (cameo by Jim Carrey) has found his true Father, God, because of Simon's faith. Joseph Mazzello and Ian Michael Smith acted brilliantly in this movie. Joseph is definitely more talented than many of today's teen actors, who unfortunately receive more publicity. All in all, this is a well-made movie with a valuable lesson. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1. I suggest the reading of Hebrews 11 for a deeper understanding of the faith portrayed through Simon Birch.
Chris

PS: There is a typo you may want to change in the "New Link" section of the Simon Birch bulletin board. It may not be the best idea to "change the link to go to the "Simon Bi#ch" section of Joseph Mazzello's official web page.

Purpose
Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2001
From: Nathan nathanrl@hotmail.com

God has a plan for my life? It is hard to put into words what this film has meant to me. I put my trust in Jesus Christ as my savior around the age of 12 (I'm 23 now)...and always knew God had a special plan for my life. What I didn't realize until several years later, was that God as a special plan for every life...which doesn't take away from the significance of any of our lives...but adds to the glory of God. I watch the movie nearly every night before I go to bed...I normally can't pay attention to a movie the second time around, much less the hundredth. I agree that this movie will be counted as a classic..every time I watch it, I realize more of it's brilliance. The great thing about this movie, is that I don't go away thinking about how great the movie is...but go away thinking how great God is. One day, we will all die, and have to answer to God.

feel free to include my email...
so if anybody would want to know how to Trust Christ as their Personal Savior, I would welcome their questions.

WATCHED WITH TEARS
Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2000
From: Debbie Braun

My name is Debbie Braun and I was told to watch this movie not only because it was an excellent movie, but because my sons have morquio syndrome the condition that Ian Micheal Smith has. I watched the movie in tears for most of the time and the first time I watched it I wasn't paying attention to the storyline but just watching Ian. I watched 3 more times and everytime I watch it I am amazed at the quality of acting and the message that is sent so clearly. We are all put on this earth for a purpose I have been through the devestation of my sons being diagnosed,and have realized that they to may have a greater purpose for being. I love the movie and I truly do commend Ian for doing such a great job and making me glad my boys are who they are.
Thanks again! Debbie

BEST IN A LONG TIME
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000
From: Darren

It's one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. But as always the movie reviewer's would not know a good movie if it kicked them in the teeth. I think that Ian Smith and Joesph Mazzello should be honard for their fine performances in a story that deals with tragedy, humor, love, friendship and labeling in such an honest and moving way. So many people can relate to this in one way or another, as so many people have said on this page. I only wish that the bureaucrats could have let the child in them enjoy the movie too.

SIMON BIRCH ONE OF THE BEST
Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2000
From: PRISCILLA DELIMA

Simon birch, i think this movie was one of the best movies i have ever seen in my life!!! for all yall cacasions who think simon birch is not a good movie yall dont have any taste of movie. I THINK IAN MICHAEL SMITH IS NOT A DWARF, BUT THE CUTEST KID I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. I THINK THAT ALL THE CAST IS GREAT!!!
PRISCILLA DELIMA

SIMON BIRCH IT THE GREATEST
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000
From: Kitty -Please do not post my e:mail address,

thanks Simon Birch- The movie is the greatest, I have seen it many times and absolutely LOVE it. My daughters 7 &10 watch it with us. We try to explain what the movie is about. The girls are learning alot from a movie like this. It shows them about loving, caring, friendship, people with handicaps and people whom judge people without giving them a chance. This is our second favorite movie: The Quiet Man is our favorite. This is a must see for everyone. Some language but we just briefly explained it and went on with the rest of the movie. Thumbs..... way............ UP!!!!!
Kitty
Response: Thanks for being a great mom! Involement with your kids -what a great concept. I hope it catches on. -David.

FAVORITE LINE
Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2000
From: Suzie

One line of dialogue will stick forever in my mind from this movie. Simon is in the corner being punished for humiliating the pastor during the service announcements, and for not apologizing to the pastor. The pastor comes in and asks Simon if he is thinking about what he as done. He replies he is thinking about God. The pastor asks Simon, "In the corner?" Simon replies, "Faith is not in a floor plan!" I love it. Faith can and will be found in any of the strange corners of our lives if we but look for it there.

My response: I had not caught that one. Very good. Thank you!

SIMON BIRCH BRINGS TEARS TO MY EYES
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2000
From: haprince

I absolutely loved this movie. I have never cried about a movie the way that I did for Simon Birch. I am now Ian Michael Smith's biggest fan. He is so adorable in this movie, all I wanted to do was pick him up and just give him a hug. I rented this movie on a five day rental, I must've watched it atleast twice a day and I laughed and cried each and every time I watched it. I give this move ten thumbs up and a box of tissues, because you're gonna need it.

"SIMON BRICH"
October 16, 1999 HI. MY NAME IS ERIN AND I MUST HAVE WATCHED SIMON BIRCH 30 TIMES. THIS IS MY FAVORITE MOVIE BECAUSE MY FAVORITE ACTORS ARE IN THIS: JOSEPH MAZZELLO AND ASHLEY JUDD. IT IS ALSO VERY TOUCHING AND I THOUGHT IAN MICHAEL SMITH WAS AN EXCELLENT PERFORMER AND A VERY TALENTED ACTOR. SINCE I WAS 5 YRS. OLD, I HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING JOE'S CAREER. I TRULY THINK THAT THIS WAS ONE OF HIS BEST FILMS. IT WARMS THE HEART AND SOUL. THE SETTING WAS GORGEOUS (BY THE WAY, JOE IS GORGEOUS TOO!) I LOVE THIS MOVIE AND NO MATTER WHAT THE CRITICS SAY, I BELIEVE THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER!-ERIN

SIMON BIRCH = RELIGIOUS SCHMALTZ
September 9, 1999. ONE LINE SUMMERY: I nearly threw up! I have to say that most of the films that I have seen at the cinema, I have enjoyed to some degree. Not so Simon Birch! This kind of industrial strength religious schmaltz far exceeds that of "The Cross and the Switchblade", "Michael" and "Almost an Angel". I have read the original novel and this film destroys it completely, turning a sound source material into a two hour episode of "The Waltons", with more terrible, overt moralizing than the human brain can cope with cope with. It's awful! There should be a law against films this bad!
-Eddie Turner
tedurner@yahoo.com

A DWARF'S PERSPECTIVE
July 7, 1999. I am a dwarf myself. This movie was an excellent film about a child growing up not being excepted. Fortunately, I have not had to deal with as much as Simon did, but I know there still are dwarfs that to this day still deal with uncalled for remarks.–Amy

CARL ROGERS AND CHRIST DON'T MIX
July 3, 1999. Story had great possibilities but turned out too predictable. Poor stereotypes of church staff. Believe it or not Carl Rogers and Christ don't mix

I CAN EASILY RELATE
June 26, 1999. One of my favorite movies in the world, except, I'm not sure if it should be compared with Stand By Me. That was truly the greatest film ever created. Anyway, back to Simon Birch, Joeseph Mazzello was brilliant in this wonderful movie. I can really relate to these two best friends because I'm 12, and I know how they are feeling, and how frustrating being this age is. Throughout the whole movie, was throat was tight, and my eyes were watering (almost cried! That's amazing for me. My 21 year old sister bawled her head off when she watched it, and she told me that I must have a heart of stone if I didn't cry) -Kit P.S. That might be true-I didn't cry when I watched The Cure either. I have to admit I was on the verge of it, though.

IT'S A LESSON ON LIFE, SO LIVE IT
June 29,1999. I THINK SIMON BIRCH IS THE BEST MOVIE IN THE WORLD I RENTED IT AND WATCHED IT 7 TIMES IN ONE DAY AND I AM GOING TO RENT IT AGAIN TODAY AND WHEN IT COMES OUT I AM GOING TO BUY IT I THINK IT IS A VERY SAD MOVIE I CRIED A LOT IT IS ALSO A VERY GOOD LESSON IT'S NOT REALLY A LESSON IT'S REALLY LIFE SO LIVE IT –LINDSAY

NON-CHURCHY GEM
June 9, 1999. My wife and I watched the movie last night. It was a jewel, a real diamond in the rough. Great acting and a spiritual lesson without getting churchy. Not sure what your web-sight is, but I’ll put it on my favorites.
–Carmen

GIVES FILM A 12 OUT OF 10
This movie was billed as a comedy-drama film and I found this to be true. There were scenes that made me laugh till I cried and there were scenes that made me cry with joy and cry with sadness. It was a most touching movie with many excellent points. The theme of faith no matter what was one of the main themes that I saw as long as what it takes to be a true prophet in the Biblical sense. It was sad to see the theme emphasized in this film that too many people "play at doing church" instead of having a real faith based on a love for God and a love for others. The others themes that stood out for me were friendship, self-sarifice, and unconditional love. On a scale of 1 to 10 I give this film a 12! Parents with young children may want to view this film first because of some of the crude language and situations in a few of the scenes.
RevRik@aol.com

TOUCHED ME DEEPLY
May 3, 1999. In this day and time, I find it a true blessing to be able to find a work of this magnitude in America. The film touched me so deeply. Now that I have finished crying, I think I'll go kiss all my children. I must congradulate the screenwriter, directors and producers of this film. But most of all the young actors who portrayed true caring friends. You don't see this (truefriendship) everyday. Well, at least not where I come from. I have to be more of an example of Christ in every aspect of my life. No matter what the circumstances...no matter how others see me..... Thanks a lot, Hollywood Films. God does have a plan for us all. Much Love to Jesus!!!! chisolm@kaplantel.net

BLUBBERING FOOL
April 25, 1999. Well, I thought that this movie was great despite some of the negative stuff I've been hearing about it. I'm a 21 year old guy who doesn't "let go" very often, but not since An American Tale have I found myself so "snot-stricken"! I was a blubbering fool! (promise not too tell anybody?) If you haven't seen it, do! It's well worth it! (oh yeah, Ashley Judd don't hurt either!)
-Jacob jt9634@acc.mcneese.edu

I WATCHED BEING FILMED
March 9, 1999. Simon Birch was a good movie to watch being filmed. I am from Lunenburg Nova scotia. And Simon Birch was being filmed right outside my house. If you have any questions to ask me about it, feel free to email me. mquest58@hotmail.com

I DID A WILD THING ...WANT THE MOVIE
Jan 20, 1999. One afternoon, while all my children were at school, I did a wild thing; I went to a movie by myself. I chose "Simon Birch", and for my efforts I was rewarded with an experience that fills me to this day. Many months later, I find that this film has that rare ability to stay with me in the most positive of ways. Christmas came and I wanted to rent this movie to share with my kids and sadly I can not find it anywhere. Can anyone help me? kimlynette@aol.com
MY COMMENT: It's not out yet.

NEW LINK
At the bottom of your review for "Simon Birch" the link to the official web page is no longer valid. Not to worry though because you can always change the link to go to the "Simon Bitch" section of Joseph Mazzello's official web page. It's located at: http://www.jmfanclub.com/simonbirch
Mike

OFFICIAL SITE
Simon Birch © 1998 Hollywood Pictures Company.
All Rights Reserved.