Childish humor deprives Simon Birch of dignity

Simon Birch (Hollywood Pictures) could have been a great film if it had not relied so much on poor humor and a cute little boy. It is a shame – the film features good performances from Joe Mazzello and Ashley Judd.

Simon Birch follows two young boys on their search for answers to their individual questions. Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) is a miracle child. He was born exceedingly small and was not expected to survive. But he did, and now must discover his special purpose in life. Simon’s right-hand-man and best friend, Joe (Mazzello, The River Wild), searches for his father’s identity.

Among its problems, Simon Birch fails to find a tone. Some parts of the film apply a low standard of comedy, notably a scene in which Simon’s antics disrupt a church play. The gags of a fat child vomiting on people and a 12-year-old boy grabbing a 12-year-old girl’s breasts drag down the dignity the rest of the film tries to uphold.

However, noteworthy performances by Mazzello and Judd deserve commendation. Mazzello shows real talent as he emotionally portrays Joe’s loneliness and emptiness in the search for his father. His scenes mark the high points of the movie. Unfortunately, screen time is largely monopolized by Smith’s cute-little-kid appeal and his portrayal of Simon often fails to make the mark.

Since her appearance in A Time to Kill, Judd has improved with every role. Her performance as Joe’s mother and Simon’s surrogate mother is impressive. Continuing to build his dramatic resume, Jim Carrey(The Truman Show) appears in the film as the present-day version of Joe, narrating parts of the movie.

If Simon Birch had been properly done, it could have been excellent. However, the creators rely heavily on sophomoric humor and forced drama which, in the end, severely limit the impact of the film.

Simon Birch opens in theaters Friday.

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