The Odd Life of Timothy Green Directed by: Peter Hedges Cast: Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Garner, CJ Adams, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ron Livingston, E. Emmet Walsh, Common Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: PG Release Date: August 15, 2012
PLOT: A married couple (Edgerton and Garner) looking to have a child are stunned to find their dream child (Adams) randomly show up in their house one rainy night.
WHO'S IT FOR? This is a PG-rated movie for families about parenting. The content is safe for families, though it does focus most on experiences older folk would only understand (such as dingus bosses, or the lack of glamor working crummy simple-minded jobs).
EXPECTATIONS: I hadn't much to think of this one, other than its casting, which primarily meant the intrigue of Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom, Warrior) in a Disney movie. When I heard this one was directed by Peter Hedges, I was reminded that I had enjoyed his earlier story What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and his film Dan in Real Life.
Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as Cindy and Jim Green: With both the fantasy's serious and silly moments, this on-screen couple brings bits of genuine heart to their characters, rounding off the movie's nicer focus of the subject of parenting. The drama involving this husband and wife can be a bit simple (such as when Edgerton is trying to win the approval of his tough dad played by Morris, or Garner is competing with her sister played by DeWitt). But the bits of enthusiasm they have in this movie shows that if this movie asking for something more wholly adult, they'd be up to the task. Score: 5
CJ Adams as Timothy Green: Though he's the centerpiece of this story, Green is the story's least interesting component. Young actor Adams (who worked with Hedges in Dan in Real Life) adds little spark to this kind of magical character. The reservedness that Adams chooses to play Green with (such as a angelic demeanor, complete with small grins and messianic physical interactions with the sun) make him overly precious, as if he were forced in front of audiences who are expected to love him (and laugh at the confusion he causes adults) just because he's there. Score: 3
Rest of Cast: A group of notable faces (Dianne Wiest, Ron Livingston, Rosemarie DeWitt, even David Morse) are used by the film as simple examples of different types of crotchety adults. Kids might find it amusing; adults, not so much. E. Emmet Walsh is used with slightly manipulative effect as an older relative who ... well, you can imagine. Even a non-amusing Common pokes his face into this project, playing the world's least supportive soccer coach. Score: 5
TALKING: Not without a message to instill into kids while simultaneously reaching out to parents, The Odd Life of Timothy Green sprinkles a good message of "It's OK to be different" in its dialogue, but no statements are fresh enough to stand out. The story itself is told in flashback, which makes for too many pointless, "But it did happen!" moments between the two parents and adoption agency authorities (the leader played by Shohreh Aghdashloo). Score: 4
SIGHTS: The fantasy of Timothy Green is presented in a natural form, with the title character coming to his parents by means of rainstorm, not by elaborate special effects sequences. That being said, the film gets some visual mileage out of its small-town locations (borrowed from Georgia and North Carolina), while also having a few scenes with strong visuals of multicolored leaves and sunlight. At the very least, Timothy Green is certainly going to alert audiences that a new, colorful season is on its way. Score: 6
SOUNDS: The most emotion from the entirety of Timothy Green comes from the usage of "The Gift," a dramatically tender song by Glen Hansard featuring Marketa Irglova. Of course, the song is played as audiences leave the theater, instead of using the applicable lyrics of "This gift will last forever ... this gift will never let you down" to a montage that could've used some real emotion. The score of Timothy Green doesn't intrude too much on the emotional territory of scenes, but instead fulfills them with a simple and memorable motif that adds a pinch of classic Disney sweetness. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: I laughed too loud when a snide DeWitt, in response to Garner's claim that "Timothy sees the good in other people," said, "Yeah, that'll get him into college."
ENDING: In memory of Timothy, everyone keeps a part of him, including the girl, who gets to keep two parts of Timothy on her ears, because it's not weird or anything.
QUESTIONS: The kid's got leaves on his legs, and no one questions whether this dirt boy has the same mortality as a tree in the fall? Couldn't the adoption agency have double-checked the story of Timothy Green with anyone else in the town, or even looked up this revelation in the news (or on a warped TLC reality show)? Why are family members so accepting of this randomly adopted child?
REWATCHABILITY: The Odd Life of Timothy Green isn't torture, so if I had to see it again, I could handle it — though I'm sure the ugly silliness would stand out even more, and the magic of the story would fade away with its familiarity.
This story of a "manic pixie dream kid" would benefit from rooting out much of its magical elements, which includes especially the sap brought by the title character himself.
The movie's weak offers of wonderment are responsible for creating much awkwardly forced drama (the too-speedy acceptance of random orphan Timothy). It also makes for cheesy chapters with Timothy being portrayed as the perfect child, no questions asked (or answered).
Especially with recession era anxieties looming in the background of these adults living in a small town, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is most serviceable when showing competitive adults and their confrontations. A couple names (Livingston, DeWitt) on this film's list of supporting actors control most of the adult interactions from being too corny, despite the movie's safer PG touch.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is twee fantasy. Still, with the increments of reality in this story that make its magic look comparably silly, this family film is survivable.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10