This film should have opened with the theme music from "Jaws,"followed by something coming up behind me and biting off a hunk of my ass. It opens with the camera moving lazily through some cozy, idyllic little town accompanied by sweet, sappy music like the beginning of "Fried Green Tomatoes" or "Forrest Gump." Next thing you know you're looking at the gravestone of the title character and wishing you could walk up to the director and spray mace into his eyes so he could experience the same kind of tear-jerking agony you know you're about to encounter.
Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) is a vertically-challenged young person or, as we like to say in the back woods, a freakish munchkin. Because of this, and his insistence that he's God's messenger, everybody ridicules him, with the exception of best friend Joe (Joseph Mazzello). Joe's a freak of sorts too, the bastard son of Rebecca. However, none of the men call Rebecca a "ho" for not revealing the identity of Joe's father, because she looks like Ashley Judd. However, this game of "who's the father" carries a big hint in the fact that there aren't too many adult males around, so you shouldn't have too much trouble figuring it out unless you're an idiot.
The director, Mark Steven Johnson, is the same guy who did "Grumpy Old Men" then decided to make that leap across the chasm of creativity and put himself to the ultimate intellectual challenge by making "Grumpier Old Men." Now, in what amounts to "Grumpy Owen Meany," Johnson employs his used car salesman approach to catharsis by delivering a lovely hug between Joe and Simon just before Simon dies, (effectively transporting us back in time... to the beginning of "The Sweet Hereafter"). Since real boys never hug, the only reason for this scene is to get every middle- aged woman with no appreciable social life crying like an infant who hasn't been fed for twelve hours.
Simon's belief in God eventually transforms Joe and the entire community, a lovely bit of simplicity because if Simon had given the concept the least bit of thought, he'd have climbed up the nearest tree with a machine gun and taken out some schlubs faster than you can say "white loser schoolboy." Unfortunately, that probably would have killed the PG-13 rating, so Johnson just went with the "God has a plan" philosophy and let the story play out like a bad Bible parable.
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