Simon Birch is a 1998 Technicolor American comedy-drama film loosely based on A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. It was directed and written for the screen by Mark Steven Johnson. The film stars Ian Michael Smith, Joseph Mazzello, Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt, and Jim Carrey. It omitted much of the latter half of the novel and altered the ending. The movie does not share the book's title at Irving's request; he did not believe that this novel could successfully be made into a film. The name "Simon Birch" was suggested by him to replace that of Owen Meany. The main plot centers around 12-year old Joe Wenteworth and his best friend Simon Birch.
- Ian Michael Smith as Simon Birch: This was Smith's first and, to date, only role in film. He was chosen because of his small height caused by Morquio syndrome. His role in this film was suggested by a hospital worker in Chicago, Illinois. After his parents read through the novel (A Prayer for Owen Meany) they agreed to let him work on the film.
- Joseph Mazzello as Joe Wenteworth
- Ashley Judd as Rebecca Wenteworth: Sandra Bullock was originally cast for the role.
- Oliver Platt as Ben Goodrich
- David Strathairn as Reverend Russell
- Jim Carrey as Joe Wenteworth (Adult): Carrey plays Joe as an adult at the beginning and end of the film and also narrates the film.
- Dana Ivey as Grandmother Wenteworth
- Beatrice Winde as Hilde Grove
- Jan Hooks as Miss Leavey
- Cecilley Carroll as Marjorie
- Sumela Kay as Ann (as Sumela-Rose Keramidopulos)
- Sam Morton as Stuart
- John Mazzello as Simon Wenteworth
- Holly Dennison as Mrs. Birch
- Peter MacNeill as Mr. Birch
The film opened at #5 at the North American box office making US$3.3 million in its opening weekend. It had a 13% increase in gross earnings, enough to keep the film at the fifth spot the following week.
The bus crash scene was filmed near Ontario's French River. The film's quarry scenes were shot at Elora, Ontario. The church featured in many parts of the film is in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Its black borders were painted white for the film. At the end of the film when it switches to the future, the borders are black. The baseball scene as well as many indoor scenes were filmed in Glen Williams, Ontario.
Home media release
The film was released on VHS and DVD on May 18, 1999 (Region 1). The region 1 DVD contains a theatrical movie trailer for this film.
Simon Birch features R&B songs from the 1950s and the 1960s, as well as four score cues by Marc Shaiman. The original motion picture soundtrack was released on November 24, 1998 on Epic Soundtrax:
- "You Were There" - Babyface
- "Bread and Butter" - The Newbeats
- "A Walkin' Miracle" - The Essex*
- "Mickey's Monkey" - Smokey Robinson / The Miracles
- "Can I Get a Witness" - Marvin Gaye
- "Fever" - Peggy Lee
- "Up on the Roof" - The Drifters
- "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag (Part 1)" - James Brown
- "The Nitty Gritty" - Shirley Ellis*
- "Nowhere to Run" - Martha and the Vandellas
- "It's All Right" - The Impressions
- "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" - Jackie Wilson*
- "Simon's Theme" - Marc Shaiman
- "Friends Forever" - Marc Shaiman
- "Simon's Birth" - Marc Shaiman
- "Life Goes On" - Marc Shaiman
* denotes songs featured on the soundtrack, but not in the film.
Other songs featured in the film but not n the soundtrack are:
- "For Your Love" - Ed Townsend
- "Peter Gunn Theme" - Henry Mancini
- "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" - Patti LaBelle
The film holds a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site's consensus calling the film "Overly mushy; tries too hard to pull at the heart-strings."
- Simon Birch at AllRovi
- Simon Birch at the TCM Movie Database
- The Bell Ringer in Simon Birch
- Hide & Seek Foundation for Lysosomal Disease Research
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