The Odd Life of Timothy Green is one of those emotionally manipulative movies that really don’t do much for me. From the moment the movie began, I felt like it was trying to manufacture emotions that just weren’t there.
The movie stemmed from an idea by Ahmet Zappa and was written and directed by Peter Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Dan in Real Life). It may have been better suited to a book. You really have to suspend reality to buy into this movie’s saccharine message.
Set in Stanleyville, which looks like an old-time Midwestern town, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is the story of Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy (Jennifer Garner) Green, a childless couple that has been desperately trying to conceive.
Shortly after a doctor’s office visit, they decide to stop trying to get pregnant and accept their fate. Over the course of the evening, they share a bottle of wine and discuss what they think their child would have been like. Then, they bury a box in their backyard. In that box are scraps of paper on which they listed their child’s characteristics.
After a heavy rainstorm, like magic, a child sprouts up from the ground and makes his way into the house. The 10-year-old boy, who calls himself Timothy (CJ Adams), is immediately comfortable calling Cindy and Jim “Mom and Dad.” And, no surprise, he’s a lot like the child Jim and Cindy wrote about on the papers they put in their box.
There is one thing that separates him from other children — the seemingly irremovable leaves attached to Timothy’s legs. Still, Jim and Cindy treat Timothy like their own son and enroll him in school.
Ron Livingston plays the boss at the pencil factory where Jim works. (Side note: I can’t see this guy and not think about either TPS reports (Office Space) or Post-its (Sex and the City).) The pencil factory is in danger of shutting down and Jim could lose his job, so this is a constant source of stress for him.
Unbeknownst to Jim and Cindy, Timothy’s leaves are slowly falling off, so it’s quite obvious where the storyline is going. Plus, the parents are talking about him in past tense as they tell a couple of adoption counselors why they should be allowed to adopt a child. Not telling the story in flashback would have helped add a little mystery to things.
I like Jennifer Garner because she seems like a nice, genuine person, but I have never found anything particularly noteworthy about her acting. Lately, she seems to be planted firmly in the rom-com genre.
I was not too familiar with Joel Edgerton but he fit the “dad” role pretty well. Last year, he played an MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter in the critically acclaimed but little seen movie Warrior.
The only time I laughed was at a line from the commercial. The dad tells Timothy to have a great day and the mom replies, “that’s too much pressure,” so he says, “have the day you have.”
In the end, The Odd Life of Timothy Green was too contrived and overly sentimental to make a real impact. It didn’t feel much like a movie that would appeal to kids or adults. It isn’t the kind of movie that needs to be experienced at a big multiplex theater for the full effect; it felt like more of a rainy day or Sunday afternoon TV movie. ••
Movie Grade: C