I’m worried about Thora Birch. Where did she go and why did she leave us? On the day of her 31st birthday, we can’t help but be concerned that her once promising career completely disappeared. Sure her IMDB.com profile shows she’s still working in the industry. But not in anything we want to see. How did one of the ’90s most prominent child actors go so wrong?
As a freelance reporter for Nostalgia.gov, I dug into the mystery of her failed career in an effort to see how exactly she fell off our radar — and how present day child actors can make sure they stay on it. Because the last thing we need is another Thora Birch or Macaulay Culkin or Ryan Merriman on our hands. It’s just too heartbreaking to obsess over people who only end up breaking our hearts. And then resurfacing on Buzzfeed 15 years later.
So let’s begin at the beginning. And then skip around because I didn’t see adult movies like Patriot Games in the ’90s.
In 1991 she starred as Hallie O’Fallon in the classic “let’s get divorced, actually let’s not because we do love each other, man we could have really resolved this by having a conversation first” Chrismas movie All I Want For Christmas. She charmed us with her spunk and her can-do attitude.
Then in 1993 she played Dani in Hocus Pocus - a role that some (okay, me) call career-defining. The precocious trick-or-treater taught us all a lesson about why virgins should never light a black candle. Also why you shouldn’t trust your parents to help you out if they’re at a Halloween party. Even if you show up at the party at an inappropriate time freaking out about a talking cat.
After defeating Sarah Jessica Parker for better part of the decade, she moved onto more nefarious targets. Like monkey-training house burglars in the delightful animal crime-thriller Monkey Trouble. I don’t know one ’90s kid who saw this movie and didn’t beg their parents incessantly for their own little Dodger. And then, realizing their parents were heartless robots, started praying that one would fall from a tree one day. Oh the lessons we learned about taking advantage of divorced parents in that movie!
With movies like Monkey Trouble and Hocus Pocus under her belt, Hollywood started paying attention to Thora Birch. If she could work with animals and with Bette Midler, then surely, she could work with anyone. Enter Gaby Hoffman, Christina Ricci and Devon Sawa in the star-studded coming-of-age film Now & Then. With a soundtrack capable of making me actually want to bike ride and a ghost story scary enough that I still refuse to look at oujia boards, this movie stole my heart. Oh Teeny, how much I wanted to be you!
Then after being given the role of a lifetime, she disappeared. Well not disappeared, –but did this weird growing up thing where she stopped making fun movies with quality soundtracks. Sure American Beauty won all kinds of awards and sure people liked Ghost World, but neither of those movies made me feel the magic that her earlier work did. Not even her two Lifetime movies: Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story and The Pregnancy Pact did the trick.
So where did she go wrong? Can we pinpoint a place where we would have done something differently? Yes. Yes we can.
She turned into an adult. It’s a shame, but it happens to the best of us (also the worst of us). While we can’t really fault her for that, we can hope that she sees this article and remembers how much joy she used to bring to our lives. And with that memory, calls up all her gal pals to film a Now and Then sequel. I must know what happened to that baby. No one normal starts out their life in a treehouse.
(Lead GIF: Tumblr)