The Odd Life of Timothy Green

© 2012 Ray Wong

The title of The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a bit misleading. The story really is about the childless couple who become Timothy Green's parents. And what "life"?  Timothy Green didn't even live past one season…

Jim (Joey Edgerton) and Cindy (Jennifer Garner) Green are a young couple who lives in Stanleyville, a small town famous for its pencils. Despite trying for years, Cindy and Jim can't conceive. Devastated by the final verdict, Jim and Cindy write down all their hopes and wishes for their "child" and put the notes in a box, which they bury in their backyard. Then something magical happens. A young boy shows up in their house, and his name is Timothy, the same name that Jim and Cindy picked for their non-existing son. Where did he come from? Did he run away? Then when they see leaves growing out of Timothy's legs, they know.

Acting as Timothy's adoptive parents, Jim and Cindy have to hide the fact about Timothy, especially the fact that he has leaves on his legs. They try to act normal and eventually become a normal family with Timothy, who is everything they ever wish for in a child. Through Timothy, Jim and Cindy get to learn to become parents. They make mistakes, too. They go through all the ups and downs of parenthood. They worry about Timothy. They have hopes and wishes for him. And they want to protect him from bullies and judgmental people such as Jim's absent father (David Morse), Cindy's braggart of a sister (Rosemarie DeWitt) and humorless boss (Dianne Wiest).

And then Timothy falls in love with a free-spirited girl named Joni (Odeya Rush). They intrigue each other. And Timothy tells Joni a secret that he doesn't even tell his parents -- a secret that will eventually change all their lives.

Jennifer Garner (Valentine's Day) is earnest to a fault as Cindy Green. Her portrayal is affecting and sincere, and one only realizes that Garnet must relate to the character and story as a mother herself. It is just that her character is too nice and sweet and kind, almost a stereotype. In comparison, Joel Edgerton (The Thing) has a more complex character to play. Jim Green isn't a perfect father, but at least he tries, to not repeat the mistakes his own father made with him. Edgerton does an admirable job with the character.

CJ Adams (Dan in Real Life) is sweet as Timothy. Though not as talented as Freddie Highmore or Haley Joel Osment, Adams has an innocent charm that is perfect as Timothy Green, who is basically an angel figure, if you will. Odeya Rush (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is lovely as Timothy's crush, Joni. On the cusp of being a young woman, Rush portrays the young girl with just a hint of blossoming sexuality (that stays within the boundary of a PG movie).

The supporting cast is largely serviceable in more conventional and cliched roles. Rosemarie DeWitt (My Sister's Sister) plays a brat rather well. David Morse (Collaborator) is aloof and stoic as Jim's father. Dianne Wiest (Rabbit Hole) seems underused as Cindy's boss, but she shows us a glimpse of her great acting in a oddly-sensual (and a bit inappropriate) scene. Ron Livington (Going the Distance) plays the town bully and Jim's boss with his usual smirks and smarminess.

Written by writer-director Peter Hedges (Dan in Real Life) from actor Ahmet Zappa's (Jack Frost) story, the screenplay is very typical Disney-esque. Something we come to expect from a Disney family movie. With that expectation, we can somewhat tolerate the sappiness and blatant heartstring tugging. Well, to a certain extent. I'm a little surprised, though, by how manipulative the screenplay is. I liked Dan in Real Life and Who's Eating Gilbert Grapes, so I am a fan of Hedges' work. Still, here, I feel that he has given in to Disney to present us with a story that is so over-to-top sugary.

Don't get me wrong. There are genuine heart-warming moments. While many of the characters are cliches, some are quite affecting.  The premise and plot, however, require a huge dose of suspension of disbelief. Even as a fantasy, we must ask what is the point of Timothy's existence? Is it to teach Jim and Cindy how to be parents? There are better ways. Is it for Timothy -- a pure soul -- to touch and change the people around him? The fact is, I don't see a lot of changes? At the end of the movie, the most changed people are Jim and Cindy. The others seem the same to me. In a way, I feel that Zappa and Hedges are trying to hard to create their version of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I mean, come on, even the titles sound similar.

Hedges' direction is simple and direct, which actually serves the film quite well. There is a bit of this fantastical, fairytale tone in the production, which also works well. The pacing seems slow in the middle, when the plot doesn't seem to move. Timothy's "secret" is no secret at all -- we all know what it is and where it is leading us. The ending is predictable and in a way anticlimactic. However, I actually like the soft, quiet ending that feels right for the characters.

As a family movie, Timothy Green has all the elements to please and delight. Too bad it's done in such a heavy-handed way, and even if it does manage to squeeze a few tears from the audience, I have a feeling they will come out of the theater feeling a bit manipulated and coerced. 

Stars: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, Dianne Wiest, Ron Livington
Director: Peter Hedges
Writers: Peter Hedges, Ahmet Zappa
Distributor: Walt Disney
MPAA Rating:  PG for mild thematic elements and brief language
Running Time: 105 minutes 


Script - 7
Performance - 7
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 8
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 7
Production - 7

Total - 7.1 out of 10.0 

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