Do you surrender to your films?
Or are you a cinematic cynic?
Your answers to these two questions may very well determine whether or not you can appreciate The Odd Life of Timothy Green,
a Disney film in virtually every sense of what that means.
What does that mean?
That means that this is a family friendly film with heartfelt yet paint-by-numbers feel good messages affirming life, family and the value of every human being. The Odd Life of Timothy Green
features the obligatory wanna parents, Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy Green (Jennifer Garner), who suddenly find their lives turned upside down when a late night, grief-fueled ritual of letting go of their dreams of being a parent ends up planting in their back yard, quite literally, one very delightful son named Timothy (Cameron "C.J." Adams) who ends up being, of course, everything they'd dreamed up for their perfect child the night before.
Schmaltzy? You betcha.
Predictable? Yep, for the most part.
You know what? Who cares?
There are those films for which it is worth the payoff to simply go along with them wherever they want to go. The Odd Life of Timothy Green
is one of those films, a good-hearted and warm and fuzzy cinematic creation featuring absolutely delightful performances across the board and messages that may be simple but that are worth repeating time and time and time again.
It's okay to be different.
Love your kids.
Don't give up on your dreams.
Cliches? Sure, but they're positive cliche's that are brought wonderfully to life by an ensemble cast that manages to find the soul of the film anyway.
The film kicks off with Jim and Cindy sitting face-to-face with a woman (Shohreh Aghdashloo) who will essentially decide whether or not they are approved to adopt a child. When asked what has prepared them to be parents, they reply quite simply "Timothy."
Thus begins the story of how Timothy entered their lives for a season, a season filled with successes and failures, joys and sorrows and so much more. There are aspects of the story that seem remarkably absurd, such as the presence of heart-shaped leaves on young Timothy's ankles. Yet, because this is Disney we know that such a story thread won't be played for laughs but rather to allow us to learn something absolutely essential about everyone involved in the story.
And so we do.
Written and directed by Peter Hedges (Dan in Real Life)
from a story by Ahmet Zappa, The Odd Life of Timothy Green
feels like a film that could have easily been directed and turned goth by Tim Burton with young Timothy being a younger, more timid and PG-rated Edward Scissorhands.
It's not so much that people fumble around him, as happened with Scissorhands, but that Timothy carries within him that same essence of sweetness and goodness and an appealing charm that draws you in and doesn't let you go.
Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton are believable parents, with Garner's role as Cindy tapping into just about everything we've learned to know and love about Garner as an actress. With the exception of her more self-centered moments as a parent, this is the Garner that we've always dreamed Garner would be - kind, loving, nurturing, a little neurotic and maternal to the core. Edgerton is similarly strong, and his performance when Timothy enters the picture is drippingly sincere in the best possible ways.
The film ultimately lives and breathes on the performance of Adams, who also appeared in Dan in Real Life.
Adams is wide-eyed and natural without an ounce of pretense or self-awareness shining through despite the occasional oddness of the situation in which he finds himself.
D.P. John Toll's camera work perfectly capitalizes on the film'a beautiful setting, with the fall foliage making the perfect backdrop for the changing of the seasons for everyone in this story. Ron Livingston does a fine job as the film's main bad guy, a pencil factory boss whose lack of leadership may cost this small town their largest employer. Dianne Wiest is a dry delight as Ms. Crudstaff, a stuffy woman who serves as the matron for the town's pencil museum.
Yes, oh yes. Pencils are everywhere here and, yes, there's lots of Disneyified symbolism going on here.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
won't likely be everyone's cup of tea, and it's doubtful that it will hold the attention of small children. However, a good majority of children will find much to enjoy here and parents will no doubt appreciate the film's positive message, inspiring characters and genuinely good heart.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
may not be as emotionally resonant as it really should have been, but in a summer that seems to have featured non-stop special effects it's awfully nice to watch an easygoing and laid back film that slows down and gets to the heart of the matter.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic