A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the lead character, Simon Birch, is a dwarf who is the subject of continuous intolerance and ridicule by adults, children, and the local religious leader. The film depicts the 12-year-old boy as a child who is wise beyond his years and believes that God has made him small for a higher purpose. Simon’s best friend, Joe, was born out of wedlock and is also an outcast in the community. Language includes words like “s--t” and “bastard,” and there are references to an adolescent girl’s breasts. An accidental death at the hands of Simon leads Joe on a search of his biological father. There's a bus accident where children are in peril, and a main character dies saving everyone. The movie is based on John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, and fans of the book should know that the movie is very different.
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What's the story?
Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) is a happy 12-year-old boy, despite the fact that his parents pay no attention to him because they’re disgusted by his dwarfism. His best friend, Joe Wenteworth (Joseph Mazzello), was born out of wedlock, and the boys bond over being outcasts in the community. Simon believes he’s an instrument of God and is awaiting his higher purpose, while Joe grapples with accepting his mother’s new boyfriend. The movie is based on John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, and fans of the book should know that the movie is very different.
Is it any good?
This is an excellent film that depicts the power of friendship and forgiveness, embracing diversity, and discovering true parental love. Simon and Joe are best friends who deal with and overcome life’s cruelest moments. Joe’s mother and her boyfriend are completely accepting of Simon’s dwarfism and, subsequently, Simon spends a lot of time at their home, especially since his own parents don’t care about him. When Simon accidentally kills Joe’s mother, Joe learns to forgive his friend. Joe goes on a quest to find his biological father and learns what it takes to earn the title of Dad. Adoptive families in particular will be heartened by his surprise conclusion. Simon also comes to the rescue when he discovers that his size has its benefits.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie portrays children with physical challenges and the reactions of the physically-abled community. What does your own religion and culture tell you about those with physical disabilities and those with higher callings?
Discuss child neglect, the death of a parent, and how guardianship works. What message does the movie send about the difference between a biological parent and an adoptive parent?
- In theaters: September 11, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: May 18, 1999
- Cast: Ashley Judd, Joseph Mazzello, Oliver Platt
- Director: Mark Steven Johnson
- Studio: Hollywood Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language, emotional thematic elements, and an accident scene.
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