Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
"Simon Birch'' is an unabashedly sentimental tearjerker. Either you stand back and resist it, or you plunge in. There was something about its innocence and spunk that got to me, and I caved in. A lot of that had to do with how likable some of the characters are. We go to the movies for a lot of reasons, and one of them is to seek good company.
The movie takes place in 1964, in a New Hampshire town that obviously had Grandma Moses as its city planner. It's about a friendship between two boys, one a gawky pre-adolescent named Joe, the other a dwarf named Simon who believes God has chosen him for a mission in life. The opening narration reveals that two of the characters will die during the course of the movie; that softens the shock when they do and lets the entire movie play as bittersweet nostalgia. It's all framed in a flashback, as an adult Joe (Jim Carrey) revisits the scenes of his childhood in narration.
Joe is your average kid. Simon Birch is not. Played by Ian Michael Smith with remarkable cockiness, he's the smartest person in Sunday school and possibly in town. He is very short and very cute, and very wise about the fact of his dwarfism. When Joe tells him a local girl finds him cute, he sniffs, "She means cute like a baby turtle is cute. Girls don't kiss baby turtles.'' How do you know, asks Joe. "I just know. If you were me, you'd know, too.'' Joe and Simon are drawn together because they're both misfits. Joe is a boy without a father; his mother, Rebecca (Ashley Judd), steadfastly refuses to name names.
"I don't understand why she doesn't just tell you,'' Simon says. "You're already a bastard, might as well be an enlightened one.'' Rebecca is a sunny, loving mother whose one lapse has, if anything, improved her character.