Some critics think “Simon Birch” is a maudlin movie, but kids seem to be drawn to the story of a tiny hero and the large problems he surmounts.
Children who saw the DVD (you can also watch it through streaming video) identified with Simon, a youngster no taller than a mid-sized chair, as he wisecracks and makes the most of a troubled life.
“Because he was that way [so small], he had a hard time” with everybody, said Carmen Sales, 10. “He was just a kid [who] tried to be good, [and] they shouldn’t have been mean to him.”
Sales says she too sometimes feels misunderstood by adults (much like Simon), and that both upsets and frustrates her. “They aren’t always nice,” Carmen said.
Still, her problems pale next to Simon’s. Besides his stature, the boy encounters anger when he confronts the local pastor, a rigid conformist, about what God has planned for him. Simon may be highly religious, but his assertiveness doesn’t go over well with the minister or his parish. Some kids thought Simon was courageous for speaking his mind throughout the film.
“He was strong to do that,” said Robbie Fitzhugh, 8.
Another challenge comes when Simon has a rare at-bat for his Little League team. After his foul ball kills a spectator, the youngster must face, among other things, the question of mortality. This all leads to the final dramatic event, which gives Simon the chance to become what he’s always wanted to be–a hero.
Although the film takes a more somber path after that, most kids in the audience seemed happy to go along. They were intrigued by the smart and sensitive way Simon reacted to the situation.
Not all youngsters were charmed by Simon and his story, however. Christopher Hellman decided Simon was too good to be true. Simon’s ability to rise above everything became annoying to the 13-year-old.
“I guess he was cute [but] he was so perfect,” Christopher said. “That wasn’t that cool after awhile.”
PARENTS’ PERSPECTIVE: Maria Sales, Carmen’s mother, was all smiles over the film. It featured a protagonist she and her daughter could root for, minus any worrisome adult situations, which made for a relaxing experience.
“Sure, it was emotional [and manipulative] but that didn’t bother me,” Sales said. “Anyway, [Carmen] likes it and that always means so much to me when I go to the movies.”
She added, “I’d recommend the DVD to anyone with kids. Something decent to share.”
Author’s note: For more articles about DVDs and movies for Children and the Family, please visit Nick Smithville.