The Odd Life Of Timothy Green
In Disney’s newest family-friendly fantasy "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." a ten-year old boy is born out of a couple’s garden and quickly changes their lives forever. Clearly, the key in this film is to suspend all disbelief and just go with it. While other fantasy films like "Big" have sort-of rational explanations for why the supernatural occurs, in "Timothy Green" it just kind of happens and you just have to accept it; which is easy to do as this is one of the most charming and heartfelt movies in years.
Jim and Cindy Green (Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner) are an adorable couple living in the small town of Stanleyville - the Pencil Capital of the World. While no state is mentioned, it has a distinct New England feel and harkens back to towns from the time period of Jimmy Stewart films. The film opens with the Greens at an adoption agency handing in their final application where they’ve left blank anything that would describe why they want a child. They explain to the agent (Shohreh Aghdashloo) that instead of writing it out, they want to tell her a story - a story that will be hard to believe - but that will illustrate why they want to have a child and why they think they’d make good parents.
So begins the tale of the "odd" life of one Timothy Green. It’s odd, you see, because during a particular strong bout of sadness after they learn they can’t conceive, the Greens spend a night drinking wine and imaging their perfect kid. He’d have a strong heart. He’d be funny. He’d score the winning goal. They take these traits, write them down, and put them in a wooden box that they bury in their vegetable garden in the backyard.
That night, an intense thunderstorm rocks their farmhouse, with a bit of upside down rain sliding up into the sky. From this, we know that something miraculous has happened. That miracle is a ten-year-old boy, covered in dirt, who shows up in their home. Before they can process what’s happening, the boy (CJ Adams) reveals his name is Timothy, the only name that they chose if their kid was a boy. He also calls them mom and dad. So once they spot the hole in their garden, they understand that this is nature’s gift to them and take him in as their own.
Oh, and did I mention he has green leaves on the lower half of his legs? And they can’t be snipped off?
So begins the quirky and loveable story of Timothy who ends up charming the town and changing all the lives he touches. This includes the town matriarch Ms. Bernice Crudstaff (Dianne Wiest), Jim’s absentee-father (David Morse), Cindy’s catty sister Brenda (Rosemarie Dewitt in her usual role), Cindy’s surrogate father Uncle Bub (M. Emmet Walsh), and the object of Timothy’s affections, fourteen year old Joni (Odeya Rush). And as he makes changes in the lives of the Greens and helps them become better people and better parents, an unfortunate occurrence begins to happen that will seal the fate of all involved with Timothy - and truly alter their lives.
"Timothy Green" is certainly a film that wears its heart on its sleeve. It has that blunt, colorful look of a Disney film with genuine, if not overly complex emotions. When things could become more complicated, they are skated over a bit too swiftly. For example, while Jim has issues with his distant father that eventually get addressed, the resolution seems to be pat for the paternal damage alluded to. The scene where he pelts kids in the head with a dodgeball seems unnecessarily cruel and almost feels out of place.
The film has a plethora of great actors with Garner and Edgerton fully inhabiting their somewhat unbelievably nice Jim and Cindy, and newcomer CJ Adams as Timothy who could have overplayed his part into precociousness. While he comes close to being that super-perfect-kid that Disney likes to put out into the ether, Timothy has a bit of substance to him. When the audience’s tears start to flow, they are earned.
It really isn’t hard to fall for this magical story with its theme about children and parents that director Peter Hedges ("Dan in Real Life") says asks the question: Do children belong to us? Or do parents belong to them? He states "this is a story for anyone who is a child or was one, or anyone who is a parent or has one." That might truly mean just about everyone on the planet. And while this family is cookie-cutter perfect, the way they raise their child is a nice reminder of how to treat each other in a world that isn’t always so protective and loving. For that, "Timothy Green" is a lovely escape into a world that can be embraced and emulated. And, it’s a film that feels like a classic that will eventually be prime viewing at every family holiday gathering.