A popular video is going around depicting two children’s less than enthusiastic reviews to Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green (I’ll give you a second to Google them but be prepared they have spoilers). The trailer definitely doesn’t convey the tone of the movie properly but you have to go in expecting a healthy dose of whimsy. Critics are deeming the film in the vein of Frank Capra which is true. The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a fable, meant to convey a message and not get bogged down in things like reality. While the story is cute and star CJ Adams works well, the story is a little too weak with character development leaving the adults dumbstruck. The story is cute, but I don’t recommend it for the littlest or less understanding children.
Jim and Cindy Green (Joel Edgarton, Jennifer Garner) discover they can’t have children. One night they write down their dream child, put the dreams in a box and bury it. After a terrible thunderstorm the Greens discover a ten-year-old boy named Timothy (CJ Adams) who says he’s for them. As the Greens and Timothy grow closer, the boy has an ability to enlighten the town and its residents.
One has to look at the people behind the scenes in order to explain why The Odd Life of Timothy Green is so quirky. Director Peter Hedges directed What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, a film that combined quirk with serious drama without becoming a total downer. The story was also conceived by Ahmet Zappa. Yes, Ahmet Zappa. With that, there is sweetness and charm to Timothy Green that lets you get wrapped up and taken on an adventure. The town of Stanleyville is removed from our realm. It’s picturesque and boasts a pencil factory and pencil museum as its sole sources of income. The Greens are the stereotypical “little guys” who are trying to do right but bad things just befall them. If you need any comparison, the Frank Capra rule applies as many elements of Timothy Green are reminiscent of It’s a Wonderful Life. The frivolity of a little boy discovering his identity in a short time removes the need to make a grandiose reveal by the end or have a deep-rooted (pun not intended) message. The message of Timothy Green is simple: Love each other. Anyone can provide love no matter what.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t suffer from some gaping flaws, mainly conveyed by a script that tries to be light and frivolous. Outside of the Greens everyone in the town wears their character descriptions on their sleeves. The Crudstaffs include Cindy’s boss, the matriarch of the town museum and her son who runs the pencil factory Jim works at. What do you need to know about them? They’re jerks, just look at the name. Other characters including a little girl named Joni (Odeya Rush) are meant to be “changed” by Timothy but there’s no grand changes to the characters so what’s the point? The ending might salt a lot of people on this movie but considering the serious turns in Gilbert Grape, I didn’t find it unexpected. What is unexpected is getting to the end and having the entire movie told in flashback to a social services worker who the Greens are trying to convince of letting them adopt. They REALLY thought that story would convince someone to give them a child?
I mentioned before that CJ Adams is good and he is a darling. Timothy is quirky and charming, all of which Adams possesses. He’s funny; he’s not a smart aleck or wise beyond his years. He’s appreciative of the time he’s given and Adams conveys a coolness and ambivalence to the world around him. Sadly, it’s the adults who fare poorly. Garner can’t catch a break as she plays Cindy manic one minute and stern-faced the next with no happy medium. Edgarton seems completely lost in a light film like this considering his darker work. He doesn’t have the ability to be playful that’s needed for the role. Other actors like Dianne Weist and David Morse are so one note they could play the roles while sleeping.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green has its charms and can’t be discounted completely. If you enjoy a light film detailing a strong, positive message and not interested in being a downer, it’s worth a view. It hearkens back to the Disney films of the 1990s in my opinion. Don’t expect much character development or a strong bunch of older actors but CJ Adams is one to watch.