The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Jim (Edgerton) and Cindy (Garner) Green are a happily married suburban couple who are unable to conceive. The tragic circumstance leads them to an interview with an adoption agency, during which they relate a story about a boy called Timothy. It all starts one night over a bottle of wine, as the couple, armed with the bad news that natural conception is impossible, compile a wish list for the child they will never have and bury it in their back garden. Cue the supernatural thunderstorm that sprouts forth a walking, talking ten year old child. It doesn’t take much to convince them that Timothy (Adams) is meant to be theirs, which of course leads to great foibles and fumbles as they run the gamut of trials and tribulations that is parenthood.
In all honesty, there’s nothing all that wrong with The Odd Life of Timothy Green. It’s exactly what you would expect from a Disney flick, sugar-sweet and not-so-subtle about those typically wholesome ideals of honesty, family and understanding that the company demands to be known for. The cast, an assortment of recognizable and established actors, do a fine job of illustrating these values with genuine enthusiasm and believable conviction. Jennifer Garner hits all the right notes as Cindy; her grief at the loss of a mother’s privilege will pull at your heartstrings while her handling of the neurotic, over-achieving side of her character leaves enough room for you to see her underlying good intentions. Joel Edgerton characterizes his Jim with a bumbling niceness that provides a necessary balance to both the relationship and the story. The real charmer, however, is CJ Adams who manages to wriggle under your skin with his puppy-dog eyes, cheeky smile and infectious exuberance.
The problem is that there is absolutely nothing new in The Odd Life of Timothy Green to make it even remotely interesting. Peter Hedges should probably stick to directing, because his screenplay is a mass of tried and true cliches. Looking for a bit of familial conflict? Well not to worry because not only does Cindy have a sister (Rosemarie DeWitt) who is an insufferable know-it-all but Jim still suffers from a father (David Morse James) who is borderline neglectful. Want some work place strife to jazz things up? Ron Livingston takes on the role of Jim’s boss, an arrogant, bullying man that isn’t just a thief but a terrible one at that. Cindy’s boss on the other hand is played by Dianne Wiest as a prim and proper ice queen, complete with holier-than-thou attitude. The characters are mere rip-offs of ones we’ve seen countless times before, so I doubt I’m ruining any ‘surprise’ by letting you know that they get what’s coming to them. In fact, every side-character is one-dimensional, with no trace of a back story or hint of an inner working that will prove that they aren’t merely sudden constructions for the benefit of Timothy.
In reality, the entire premise is a bit of a hard sell. Based on an idea from Ahmet Zappa, it requires a suspension of belief that is not entirely possible. Everyone loves a bit of the supernatural, there’s no harm in accepting a miracle at face value, but there has to be some form of an explanation at some point. How did a flesh and blood body sprout out of an earth and worms ground? What’s up with those leaves on his ankles? I’m all up for leaving in a little ambiguity, allowing for our own machinations of faith and ideology to fill in the blanks, but this takes the leeway too far thereby affecting your ability to take ANY of it seriously. In this day and age, expecting anyone to gloss over the fact that the sudden appearance and then disappearance of a full-grown child doesn’t draw even the passing attention of child services is asking for a lot. So far, no amount of research has been able to uncover exactly what Zappa’s idea entailed but good on him for convincing a multinational corporation that this sliver thin notion was a sure-fire blockbuster.
If you’ve got a young family and are desperate to teach them the meaning of truth, love and compassion then The Odd Life of Timothy Green just might be the ticket. It’ll do it’s thing, maybe draw forth a tear or two and hopefully make your kids understand how hard it is to be a parent. Fingers crossed you might even score a promise to be better (‘coz that’s what Disney does, they inspire you to be better). If however you’ve got no such schemes planned, I’d give it a miss and put on something that you’ll actually enjoy.