While it's true that interesting books rarely make interesting movies, they can, in the right hands, be dumbed down into perfectly good family entertainment. Writer-director Mark Steven Johnson has just those hands: He's taken John Irving's beloved and deeply
religious novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and turned it into a nicely played but wholly unadventurous film that's as spiritually edifying as Touched by an Angel. In the kind of idyllic New England town that only Pepperidge Farm remembers -- pristine clapboard houses, gleaming church
steeples, autumn leaves year-round -- an adult Joe Wenteworth (Jim Carrey) recalls the events of his 12th year and his best friend Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith). At birth, Simon was the smallest baby the town had ever seen (his mother's labor consisted of a single sneeze) and he would never grow
to normal size. But Simon, a child of unshakable faith, grows convinced of one thing: God has special plans for him, and He custom-made Simon extra-small to better serve as His instrument. Simon's conviction only grows stronger after he innocently serves as an angel of destruction, accidentally
causing the death of young Joe's (Joseph Mazzello) mother (Ashley Judd). It's a pretty loose adaptation of the original novel (the credits claim that it's "suggested" by Irving's book), but it's not loose enough to avoid comparisons, and Owen Meany's legion of fans will not be pleased.
Irving's dead-serious sense of spiritual purpose is here replaced with weepy sentiment and saccharine comedy. But knee-deep in syrup, the film manages to stand on its own -- mainly due to a terrific performance from young Smith and a host of winning supporting players. Dana Ivey scores as Joe's
grandmother, a humorously humorless New England matron, and Jan Hooks, as a harried Sunday-school teacher, provides the film with a few genuine, laugh-out-loud moments.
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: PG
- Review: While it's true that interesting books rarely make interesting movies, they can, in the right hands, be dumbed down into perfectly good family entertainment. Writer-director Mark Steven Johnson has just those hands: He's taken John Irving's beloved and dee… (more)