The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a fairy tale made by Disney, so you know pretty much exactly what you’re in for before it even begins. The only question is regarding the type of fairy tale that it’s going to be. Will it be like Marry Poppins, or will it be like Cinderella? Yes, those are the two that come to the top of my head. What of it? Anyway, it’s much more like Marry Poppins than the other one — or most of Disney’s animated catalog, really — for whatever that’s worth.
The film begins with a trip to the doctor’s office for a married couple, Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton). They’ve been wanting to have a child for so long, and have been unsuccessful. They’ve undergone numerous tests, at great cost to them, but it has been determined that it is impossible — although whether only one of them is the problem or if it’s both is left unannounced. They go home sad, but eventually decide that moving on is the best decision. Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done.
So, one night, they write down all of the attributes they wanted in their prefect child and put these notes in a box. The box is buried, and they go to sleep. That night, a flash storm occurs — their town was in the middle of a drought, which makes this doubly weird — and in place of their box with ideals of a child is an actual child, Timothy (CJ Adams), whose defining characteristic are leaves that look like they’re taped onto his ankles (although they’re apparently growing out of him, so says the movie).
Their wish has come true, and now they have a child. There’s the magical aspect of this fairy tale. Someone comes out of nowhere and, over the course of the movie, will have a pretty strong impact on a bunch of people. That’s almost the entirety of the film. There’s only one major twist in the plot, which you’ll probably guess about half an hour in even though the film wants to conceal it from you as long as possible, leading to the reveal not happening until the final couple of scenes.
To the film’s credit, there are a lot of things going at one time, and there are a few different subplots that are neat diversions from the main one of Timothy and his parents. There’s one involving Cindy’s mean boss, Ms. Crudstaff (Dianne Wiest), another involving Jim’s neglectful father (David Morse), the boss of the local pencil factory (Ron Livingston) which is close to being shut down, and even a girl on whom Timothy develops a crush (Odeya Rush).
Of course, almost all of it is played as safely as possible and I can’t help but feel as if taking a few more risks would have allowed Peter Hedge’s film to be more satisfying. Once a subplot begins, you can be pretty sure exactly how it’ll end, especially after you realize that Timothy is going through the same events and situations that his parents wanted him to when they were dreaming up the child. It’s predictable and I eventually grew tired of the film as a result. Not a single thing managed to surprise me, and while that might not matter to the children the film is targeted toward, their parents will most certainly care.
In a lot of ways, I think of Big Miracle when I think of what best to compare to The Odd Life of Timothy Green. The main reason for this is that both are 2012 releases, but they’re also both harmless pieces of entertainment targeting the whole family, each having some sort of lesson at the end. I liked Big Miracle more, as it wasn’t so cluttered, but then I recognize that this film had to be so filled with things; if it wasn’t, we’d get bored.
A better solution would have been to shorten it and not be so predictable, but I’d rather be overloaded with things than not have enough, so it’s not like I’m terribly disappointed with too much stuff being crammed into the movie. Focusing on a smaller number of things and giving them more time to develop might have helped make the film feel genuine, though, which is something that it deeply missed. I couldn’t believe that any of these people were real; they were all stereotypes that couldn’t possibly be believable.
If there’s one big point to put in the positive category, it’s CJ Adams’ performance as Timothy Green. He lights up the screen whenever he’s there, and the honest, optimistic and innocent nature of the character makes you wish all children were like him. Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner make for a fine couple, embarrassing themselves in a couple of scenes that make for a good laugh. And Ron Livingston, Rosemarie DeWitt, Dianne Wiest and David Morse all play their villainous roles well.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a harmless piece of entertainment aimed at families and children. It’s a fairy tale that’s meant to teach people lessons, while also being a competent drama. It is both, successfully, although it easily could have been better with a tighter, more focused screenplay, and some unpredictability. Does it do the job? Sure, but the audience it’s going after usually doesn’t have the highest expectations anyway. And it’s kind of funny, in an awkward and embarrassing way. Is it worth the time? Not if you can see R-rated affairs. But if your choices are limited to this and other PG movies, this will be satisfactory.