The whimsical wonderment behind The Odd Life of Timothy Green is undeniably sweet and sentimental. This is the kind of nostalgic Disney-esque style filmmaking that satisfies the uplifting verve of movie audiences looking to escape into a magical malaise of the cutesy curiosities. Armed with a thought-provoking message about a pocketful of miracles resting on the shoulders of an inspirational mop-top boy with an enticing aura, The Odd Life of Timothy Green cannot seem to shake its sappy-minded structuring of pathos and pithiness.
Undoubtedly well-meaning and spiritual, The Odd Life of Timothy Green has a serviceable soulful edginess but is a predictable pariah to the mushy contrivance that plagues this sleepy-eyed fable of faith. The introspection of a childless couple yearning for a youngster is admirable and probably relatable to loving parents-to-be and the fortunate tykes looking to be the focus of that limitless affection. However, writer-director Peter Hedges (“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, “Dan in Real Life”) never quite convincingly aims his sturdy tear-jerking tendencies at the obvious gimmick at hand—his little leaves-sprouting lad Timothy Green from the movie’s “garden of growth”.
The colorful imagination and excitement pertaining to the mysterious boy whose skin produces green stuff one is used to seeing in their salad bowl is impishly interesting. Hedges, however, gets bogged down with the heartaches and headaches of the parents’ psychological struggles thus compromising the purity of Timothy Green’s mystique. The scattershot weepiness is thrown off track by other subplots (such as the arbitrary introduction of blue collar pencil factory layoffs) that The Odd Life of Timothy Green is further muddled in mawkish static. Hence, Hedges’s promising narrative is compromised as a generic family melodrama missing its genuine misty-eyed pulse.
Devoted married couple Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Gardner and Joel Edgerton) crave to have a little bundle of joy to complete their family. Unfortunately, The Greens are having trouble trying to conceive a child. It seems that all methods have been exhausted in them trying to have a baby. Procedure after procedure results in frustration for Cindy and Jim. The dream is gone as their hopes and aspirations for creating an offspring are futile at this point…at least according to their doctors.
Feeling realistic and saddened about their baby-making dilemma, Cindy and Jim go about their business. In a wishful thinking gesture the loving tandem decide to concoct a list of positive traits that they would have liked to have been instilled in their child. They put the list in a box and plant it in their garden to compensate for the lack of a real child to bless their presence.
After the list-planting ceremony is carried out the Greens are surprised to come across a 10-year old boy named Timothy (C.J. Adams) the following morning. Timothy is covered in garden soil and has a peculiar knack for having leaves sprout from his legs. The realization hits Cindy and Jim that their dream child was hatched out of their garden. The birth of Timothy Green is finally an answer to the couple’s wildest expectations! Strangely, they rejoice yet do not question the existence of this pre-teen plant boy that emerged from their garden’s fertilizer.
Naturally, Timothy has an agreeable reaction to the garden that apparently gave him life and liberation. The kid appears normal and well-adjusted for the most part. Amid the growing turmoil of the economic woes smothering the bedroom community, the appearance of Timothy feels reassuring as his earthly charm is felt by those that come across the head-scratching antics of this youthful mini-sized cad.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is sporadically absorbing but tries to take on too much while depriving moviegoers of the plant-sprouting protagonist Timothy and the further development of his character’s mystical makeup. The film juggles the topical angst associated with infertility, parental concerns, emotional attachments between child and parent of all ages and employment insecurities. This is all well and good but the surrounding question mark concerning this bubbly boy with the welcoming greenhouse grin is wasted among the jammed generalities of the other roaming, flimsy subplots.
Both Garner and Edgerton are endearingly effective as the anguished parents with conflicted feelings of nurture and psychological uncertainty. As Timothy, Adams is vastly likeable and believable although the film should have probed his characterization more soundly. The supporting cast such as the inclusion of veteran Oscar winner Dianne Weist as town figurehead Bernice Crudstaff, Cindy’s sister Brenda (Rosemarie DeWitt), Cal the soccer coach (Common), Jim’s distant and indifferent father (David Morse) and Jim’s nagging boss (Ron Livingston) all populate the storyline to give some perspective to Timothy’s questionable impact. Still, the shuffled side stories seem like quirky-induced filler.
Overall, the kiddies will be fascinated by the conception of Timothy Green and his so-called boyish oddness but for the twitchy older folks…well, you might want to turn the garden hose on this heralded slice of hokum.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Walt Disney Pictures)
1 hr. 40 mins.
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Dianne Weist, David Morse, Rosemarie DeWitt, Common, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ron Livingston
Directed by: Peter Hedges
MPAA Rating: PG
Genre: Family/ Science Fiction/Comedy-Drama
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)