Simon Birch (1998)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Childhood Drama  |   Release Date - Sep 11, 1998 (USA)  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

The at times nauseating preciousness of Simon Birch made it a target of great cynicism among critics, while fans who worshipped John Irving's "suggested by" source material, A Prayer for Owen Meany, felt the film misinterpreted Irving's tone and main character. Instead of Irving's mystical yet cockeyed ruminations on the preordained life of a regular boy who happens to have been born small, Simon Birch makes the character an overly cute disease-of-the-week type who screams out for audience pity. Screenwriter/director Mark Steven Johnson mounts the proceedings with a keen eye for nostalgic production design, but he crosses into glossy self-consciousness once too often. Aware that his film might be viewed as emotionally manipulative, Johnson takes pains to create quirky characters who don't always treat Simon with kid gloves, though this too reeks of some effort. He at least has the good sense to give Simon a wry wit that calmly deflects insult and curbs some of the film's tendencies toward condescension. While Simon Birch is ultimately too much of a drippy coming-of-age story, chock-full of "cue the violins" moments, it's not the total embarrassment some critics made it out to be. It just doesn't view the events with enough irony to save it from being thought of as a saccharine source of faux inspiration.