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The Odd Life Of Timothy Green

Theatrical Review

Walt Disney Pictures; 125 minutes

Director: Peter Hedges

Written by on August 14, 2012 

Though it sports a somewhat intriguing one-line premise (a married couple who can’t get pregnant literally bury their hopes for the child in their garden, only to find the boy alive and well the next morning, with leaves growing out of his legs), The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a brutally standard coming-of narrative.

Bookended by an aggravating interview with a pair of adoption agents, Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy (Jennifer Garner) Green tell their unbelievable story as a means of convincing these two that they are ready to adopt. So begins an alternate reality that tries to be Frank Capra with a pronounced infusion of trees.

It’s a noble idea from the minds of Ahmet Zappa and Peter Hedges, who provide the story and screenplay, respectively. That said, Hedges, who also directed the picture, seems unfortunately confused on how to fuse this tale’s abundance of emotion with a narrative, genuine through-line. Jim and Cindy are good people not yet ready to be parents, which is apparently why Timothy is given to them. While they learn how to be good caregivers, Timothy also goes around making everybody’s life better and so on and so forth.

It’s all very whimsical and sweet but ultimately shallow and without much meaning. No character is its own creation, each one a amalgamation of past troupes from movies lie this one, save the leafy feet. From the domineering soccer coach (Common) to the overbearing owner (a misused Dianne Wiest), Hedges’ world is full of stereotypes who have stereotypical progression tracks. Even Rosemarie DeWitt‘s overachieving sister character (aptly named Brenda Best) is so on-the-nose that her implied softening at the climax of the film feels unearned and non-sensical. What lessons has Timothy been teaching her while the camera wasn’t on to make her a different person? There’s far too much of this throughout, as though Hedges skips beats with the assumption we already know how this all turns out.

Young CJ Adams is impressive enough as the enigmatic Timothy, engaging us when he’s on screen. Sadly, Garner and Edgerton are on screen just as often, failing to infuse their cardboard personas. Garner has played this kind of role before, and better, in the far more interesting parenting film Juno, while Edgerton fits into the role of dad-in-the-making/working-man-with-an-artistic-soul up until he’s required to get excited and lively. What’s meant to be the loving reaction of a father plays like the forced performance of an actor. For now, stoicism seems to suit the Aussie performer best.

The film’s crown jewel is its cinematography, courtesy of the ever-accomplished John Toll. Perfectly capturing the ever-shining light of this small, fictional town of Stanleyville, Toll promises a natural majesty of this place that Hedges can’t live up to.

Above all else, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a confounding picture, both in that it was made (by juggernaut Disney no less) and in how it was made. This is not a film for children, nor for adults. For parents? Possibly. But then, how many parents want to watch a film that reminds them how clumsy and embarrassing they were at parenting early on?

The Odd Life of Timothy Green hits theaters Wednesday, August 15th.


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