‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green’ Review
Woe be to the diabetic who sees ‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green.’ This is some seriously thick, sugary stuff served straight, without even a tiny chaser of irony to help wash it down. I know that sincerity is the new black, but, really, this one is just too tough to take. My eyes rolled so many times I probably looked like I was having a stroke.
Told in flashback by Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as they apply to become adoptive parents, the action takes place in a Norman Rockwell/Ned Flanders wet dream of small town America. Stanleyville is the pencil capital of the world, forever baked in magic hour sunlight, where a factory worker (making pencils) and a docent (at the pencil museum) can live in a gigantic home under starry skies with a garden in the back.
It’s in that garden where Edgerton and Garner, once again informed they are medically incapable of procreation, bury their notes on what their dream kid would be like. It’s a contrived moment, but I suppose it’s what happens when really good, really earnest people have a few sips of wine.
After a magic rainstorm, a young boy called Timothy (the name they had on their list!) appears out of the mud and is addressing them Mom and Dad. Timothy’s a cross between Haley Joel Osment’s David from ‘A.I.: Artificial Intelligence’ and that twerp from the Honda commercial. Your reaction to Timothy is entirely dependent on how you view precocious tykes with wide eyes and big dreams that are just a li’l bit quirky.
While I was searching for my air sickness bag, Edgerton and Garner are overjoyed. They are quick to accept him as their own and shrug off his arboreal conception and the fact that he has leaves coming out of his legs. (Some thick socks will take care of that problem.)
As Timothy’s sunny (and sun-worshiping) attitude creates a ripple effect through the town, it exposes how Mom & Dad have some family issues of their own that need work before they are truly ready to become parents. With each of these life lessons delivered, one of Timothy’s leaves quietly shrivels up and dies. The garden clock is ticking.
Indeed the child is father to the man (and woman) and while the script never goes so far as to say that “we thought we were raising Timothy, but Timothy was raising us,” the sentiment, schmaltzy music and endless close-ups are there. At a soccer game. And a town hall meeting. And a when the spunky Greens rock out at the stuffy classical music recital. Oof.
Listen, I’m not a monster. Even with all my protective cynicism the film broke me down occasionally. When M. Emmet Walsh’s joyous Uncle Bubbles died with a grin on his face I was moved, shoot me. And the puppy love scenes between Timothy and the strikingly beautiful Odeya Rush had undeniable charm.
Try as I might, though, I just can’t figure out who a movie like ‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green’ is for. The kids I know that are Timothy’s age would laugh this treacle off the screen and demand to watch ‘Transformers’ or ‘iCarly.’ While the movie is ostensibly about parenting, no parent, particularly ones with kids small enough that they only get a night out once in a blue moon, would have much interest in this either. (Maybe if ‘Bourne Legacy’ is sold out and the babysitter only has so much time.)
‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green’ is the type of movie you see when you’ve got Grandma over for the weekend and you don’t dare see anything that might offend. Maybe there’s a business model there, but for entertainment, it doesn’t offer much.‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green’ is in theaters now.
Jordan Hoffman was the movies editor at Hearst Digital’s UGO for four years and currently contributes to SlashFilm, MTV’s NextMovie and StarTrek.com. He’s made two marginally successful independent movies, is a member of the New York Film Critics Online and was named IFC’s Ultimate Film Fanatic of the NorthEast in 2004. Follow him on Twitter at @JHoffman6.