Film Review: Simon Birch (1998)

Length: 1hr 54

Rating: PG

Release: 25th June 1999

About: Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) and Joe Wenteworth (Joseph Mazzello) are boys who have a reputation for being oddballs. Joe never knew his father, and his mother, Rebecca (Ashley Judd), is keeping her lips sealed, no matter how much he protests. Simon, meanwhile, is an 11-year-old dwarf whose outsize personality belies his small stature. Indeed, he often assails the local reverend (David Strathairn) with thorny theological questions and joins Joe on his quest to find his biological father.

The Good

  • The plot- memoir meets mystery. Has the Stand by Me vibe that was popular in the 90s. Nothing says Sunday afternoon movie more than a 1950’s nostalgic flash back with a calming ‘Wonder Years’ narration.
  • Jim Carey as the older Joe/narrator really works. He has a beautiful voice that really carries the memoir tone. Something that really surprises me seeing as the last thing I saw him in was Earth Girls Are Easy.
  • Oliver Platt is somewhat of an underrated actor in my opinion. This film is a perfect example of what a rich performance he can bring to the table and how he is able to balance humour, charm and charisma. He could not have been in this move enough.
  • Joe Mazzello and Ian Michael Smith Have this amazing chemistry throughout the film that I want so many movies with the two of them. Joe always seems comfortable within the 50s and this film sees him give some of his most powerful scenes I’ve ever had the privilege to see. From standing up to Simon’s excuse for a father to his response to the ‘lefty’ reveal, Mazzello gives emotion by the bucket load. It’s hard not to see the parallels with Three Wishes, but watch them in close succession and you can see how much stronger a person in a similar circumstance can be so different with a true best friend to escape with. Less brat and more of a level head makes Joe of Birch a favourite character of mine.
  • Ian Michael Smith gives the most incredible performance. I hate the response of the adults, including those within the church. He is a beautiful and caring child, despite the discouragement he experiences. There’s a cheeky side to the character that makes this film such a joy to watch despite the bittersweet ending you know is coming.

The Bad

  • I’m sad we lost the relationship between Rebecca and Ben so soon. While it does have an impact on his relationship with Joe, and I love their bond, I’d have loved to have seen them as a family unit a little more.

The Ugly

  • It’s all ‘My Girl’ in places so prepare yourself with a tissue or, you know, a million. Although while My Girl gives you a really amazing happy ride until that blub-fest, this will have your eyes like Niagara Falls from the midway point onwards.