Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes, Rated PG
Starring: CJ Adams, Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Odeya Rush, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, M. Emmet Walsh
Written & Directed by Peter Hedges (Pieces of April, Dan in Real Life)
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a fantasy. It sounds weird to say, but the best fantasies are the ones that are firmly rooted in reality, right? We can suspend our belief in movies where aliens attack, or people can fly. But the scenes featuring regular folk must be something we can connect with.
In Timothy Green, we get a fantasy story set in a version of our world that doesn't exist.
Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton are Cindy and Jim Green, a married couple who are having problems conceiving children. When their doctor finally tells them that they are unable, they hit rock bottom, which in a Disney movie means that they cry a bit and break out a bottle of red wine. To cheer Cindy up, Jim begins listing characteristics that their child would have had - a big heart, honest to a fault, etc. This gives the couple momentary joy.
Realizing that they can't get too excited about a fictional child, they take all of these notes and bury them out in the garden. Miraculously, a storm suddenly blows through, and out of the ground spouts a young boy, Timothy.
When Jim and Cindy discover Timothy, they first think he is a runaway. But when they discover the hole in the ground, it's pretty clear that Timothy is their dream come true.
Timothy seems to be a normal boy, for the most part, except for one very peculiar trait: He has leaves growing out of his legs.
The film is told using that annoying flashback model - Jim and Cindy are currently in an adoption agency, as they recite the story of Timothy Green to their agent.
The film is wholesome to the point where it is almost agitating. There are some good lessons buried under the several cliched characters, like being yourself and that nobody is perfect, nor should we strive to be. But most of this is a series of thoughts and ideas that are never fully developed.
David Morse, for example, plays Jim's father, and we learn that they've had a rough go. Nothing about Morse's character would make us think this however. Rosemary DeWitt is Cindy's perfectionist sister, who is portrayed as a hateful villain more than an over-bearing sibling.
In fact, that was my biggest problem with the movie - the over-exaggerated characters that seem so unrealistic given we're watching a movie about a boy with leaves growing out of his legs. The sister goes out of her way to publicly humiliate a small boy, and for what? Timothy's soccer coach seems to have a personal vendetta towards him, and would rather play short-handed then put him in for one play all season?
Timothy exists to prepare his parents for parenthood, but for us he exists for no good reason. As his leaves slowly begin to fall off, one by one, we see that he has a secret that he isn't sharing with his parents. It's a plot twist that even your 5 year-old will see coming.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is an odd film indeed these days, in that it is a nice, pleasant family film that doesn't shy away from themes of death or humanity. Had Timothy's story only been planted in a real world, with familiar, fully-developed characters, it may have grown on me.
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