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Simon Birch

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/08/99 16:05:04

"Pass the syrup. No! Not that much!"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

This is one of those films that you can't say anything bad about even if you hate it. Like Shine, Sling Blade, Cosi and The Other Sister, you basically sign a "will not say bad things" clause when you buy a ticket. A cynic would call these films "Oscar Bait". Most people call them "coming of age" films or "triumph over adversity" movies. A realist would call them something altogether different.

But while Simon Birch tugs at your heartstrings until they're ripped out of your throat, it also manages to be sufficiently realistic as to avoid coming across as shameless, in the way that The Other Sister comes across.

The story, derived from the book A Prayer For Owen Meany, is simply misdirected. So long is taken on establishing characters that it's somewhat of a surprise that the characters are still so shallow. Ashley Judd's role is so one note that at times its distracting. Not her fault, she simply doesn't have the kind of scenes or dialogue that one would equate with a big performance.

The two kids playing the leads are both great. They're extremely likeable and decent young actors, but again, we're talking cruise control. Nothing really happens until the very end, and by then too much time has passed for it to really have an affect on the audience.

The ending called for tears, and no tears were forthcoming. Its as if everyone knew what was coming from the first frame of the film. Why? Because we did.

A cameo by Jim Carrey only serves to further mess up the equilibrium of the film and the "who is my father" dillemma that the large part of the film is based around is easily solved by anyone paying attention (or not nodding off).

Like Patch Adams, this film has not been put together tobe a masterpiece. It's just one of those nice family things that will have granny smiling and mom looking at her watch, as the kids munch popcorn. No life message, nothing to think about, everything served up on a silver platter with the solutions circled in red.

Not to say the film is God awful, but it doesn't earn your respect and doesn't strive real hard to. In my book, that means a fail.

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