Odd Life of Timothy Green, The (2012)
Release Date: August 15th, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Peter Hedges Actors: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, Dianne Wiest
here’s a joke early in the film in which Timothy asks his parents why the skeleton didn’t cross the road. The answer is that it had no guts. This level of humor sums up the tone, intelligence, and target audience for “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” which struggles to find creativity, worthy comedy, and resonance. The basic, unsophisticated nature of the sparse laughs demonstrates a rift in moviemakers to viewers. It attempts to appeal to adults simply by having matured characters and to children just by including childish adventure. But much is left to be desired, especially when the adults act insincerely and the adolescents are unnaturally aloof.
Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy Green (Jennifer Garner) wish to adopt a child. They must argue their case to an impatient agent (Shohreh Aghdashloo) of the United States Adoption Services, fatefully choosing to recount their bizarre tale of a ten-year-old boy who magically entered their lives, as proof of their competency. The couple, both of who work in various aspects of the pencil-producing capital city of Stanleyville, becomes frustrated at the ultimate news of not being able to have children. In a final night of dreaming up ideal qualities for the kid they can’t have, during which they fill a box with handwritten attributes that is then buried in the garden, something unexplainable happens. A young boy enters the Green’s home, revealing strange little leaves growing from his legs; upturned dirt and the shattered remains of the box are discovered in the backyard. Timothy has enchantingly “grown” to be the exact offspring the Green’s had always hoped for. (These scenes could have been quite frightening, like something from “Pet Sematary” or “Drag Me to Hell,” had chilling music been added – they’re shot exactly like a horror movie.)
The film is set in a realistic environment, with accompanying supporting roles, and grown-up themes. But none of them are approached with honesty. Examinations of death, mortality, unsupportive parenting, lack of confidence, and ostracization by peers – which in any other film could have been powerful – are illustrated with casual jokes. Quite fortunately for the parents, Timothy arrives old enough to understand notions of acceptance and being different, and so is instructed on the first day of his new childhood that he needs to cover up his calves to avoid being treated differently by friends and family. He’s still bullied at school, but it’s noted that since he doesn’t know to defend himself or cry, his tormentors aren’t stimulated by their routine harassment. What is this supposed to say about the woes of teens? The predicaments arrive too late and aren’t handled with enough genuineness to be appreciated, instead brushed under the rug of whimsical fabrication.
A fine line exists between fantasy and nonsense. “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” repeatedly vaults across that boundary, declaring the concepts to be as ludicrous as many will instantly suspect. “It was all very sudden and kind of miraculous,” explains Cindy, who, despite having openly exhausted all medical forms of birthing a child, is easily able to conceal how she acquired Timothy. And no one really bothers to ask. Police officers even make a brief appearance, but rapidly dismiss the unusual occurrences without any investigation. Although the world Timothy materializes into is intended to be real, the behavior of every inhabitant is far from convincing. This isn’t science-fiction or fantasy nearly as much as it is pure rubbish. Even with the relevant, persistent ideas of readying two novices for parenthood and learning to cope with abnormalities, the inclusion of a noticeably inappropriate, over-sexualized love interest and sappy domestic bonding detrimentally interferes with sensibility and entertainment.
– Mike Massie