Friday, September 14, 2012

The Odd Life of Timothy Green Movie Review

While checking for showtimes of The Amazing Spider-Man I noticed another movie was in theaters that I hadn’t heard of before, The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012). I’m not sure how I missed hearing about it; Disney generally spares no expense on letting their products be shouted from the rooftops. The trailer seemed interesting, so I went to see it. It’s exactly what the trailer said it was, and I have to say I liked it.
A childless couple, Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) are told that every medical option has been explored and that they cannot have children of their own. Grief stricken, they go home and spend one last night with their dreams and wishes of having a child. They write down qualities they would like their ideal child to have, place the notes in a box, and bury it in their garden to put an end to their hopes. After a thunderstorm a ten year-old boy named Timothy (CJ Adams) arrives at their home, claiming the Greens as his parents. Strangest of all is the boy has leaves growing out of his legs around his ankles. Cindy and Jim take in Timothy for the time being and strive very hard to be the best possible parents to this odd, but good boy. They quickly find parenting to be a much more complicated and bigger challenge than they expected.
This is kind of a strange movie. It seems to be targeted towards kids, but there are a lot of themes in it that I really don’t think kids could grasp. You can’t really express to small kids the confusion a parent has when they don’t know whether to help their child or let them make their own mistakes. The story is driven by how people react to Timothy, but he’s not really the main character, Cindy and Jim are. Nevertheless, the story is simple and amusing enough that both parents and their children will enjoy the movie.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is kind of a modern fairy tale for grownups in the sense of wish fulfillment, a journey of discovery, and a touch of magical influence. I couldn’t help but think of classic fairy tales that feature a childless couple who daily yearn for a child and then by some miraculous means, have a child. Jim and Cindy learn what being a parent is really like and that there is a lot more to it than simply providing basic necessities and love. While the story has some fantasy qualities to it, hardly anything magical occurs after Timothy shows up.
Good child actors are hard to come by. They are usually pretty unexpressive actors (like Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of theSouthern Wild) because they just aren’t old enough to know how to act, or they are so cute that no one cares that they don’t know how to act (like Shirley Temple). CJ Adams actually did a remarkable job in his delivery as Timothy Green. He was expressive without being melodramatic and lacked self awareness that most child actors have which weakens their performance. CJ’s performance felt very natural. He’s a pretty cute kid, too.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green really captivates old-time values. Although the movie has a present setting, it’s still about kids going outdoors to play, having community sporting events, autumnal colors, farm houses out in the rolling hills, khakis and polo shirts, birthday parties and swimming with friends. The only modern technology visible is in one scene where Cindy is trying to talk about being a parent to someone absorbed by their cell phone. The cell phone isn’t at fault; it’s just used as a means of illustrating how detached and busy the woman is from  taking care of her kids that she doesn’t really get to even know her kids. At any rate, it’s got a timeless, homey vibe that would make people of any age feel nostalgic for their childhood.
Like many Disney movies, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is very sweet. I didn’t think it was so sweet and sappy that it would dissuade me from enjoying it, but I could see some viewers feeling exasperated by the Normal Rockwell-style sentiment and sugary happiness. The movie has some truly lovely moments and, to be fair, a few that are a bit too saccharine to take very seriously.
Overall, I’d say The Odd Life of Timothy Green is an average movie. But being average is what gives the movie its charm. If you see it and think it’s too sappy and sweet, I could certainly see where you’re coming from. If you enjoy it as a cute movie about new a family awkwardly trying to fit into their new roles, I could sympathize most earnestly. I don’t think this is so much a kid’s movie; I do think kids would enjoy it, but not as much as their parents would. If you are a parent who genuinely loves your children, are hoping to be a parent soon, or even thinking of adopting, you will love this movie. If not, it’s still a cute film that is worth seeing someday. It wouldn’t be bad to see in theaters, but you’d be fine with renting it on DVD when it’s available. I wouldn’t mind owning my own copy on Blu-Ray, though it’s not a top priority.

Can you think of another movie that was targeted for kids, but where the main story would go right over their heads? Comment below and tell me about it!

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