Jun. 19, 2013 - Issue #922: The Jazz Man Cometh
The Odd Life of Timothy GreenAs its title suggests (think The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), family flick The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a fable, or it tries to be. The problem's that Disney-schmaltz, family-values hokum, and dopey clichés ("anything's possible," "different's OK," etc), syrup over the intriguing allegory.
In a small Midwest town, two hopeful parents (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) tell an adoption agency, a year before, they buried a box containing their imagined traits of a child in their garden. One magical storm later and a 10-year-old, Timothy (CJ Adams), appears. He's got leaves on his feet and is prone to standing, arms raised and eyes closed, to soak in the sun, but otherwise he's an everyday kid, even tenderly befriending a girl (Odeya Rush).
The story lumbers off to a stiff start—should've erased its sketchy narrative frame—and it offers paper-thin characters. The subplot of the town's failing pencil factory trails off, not helped by the all-evil boss. Garner can't inject enough complexity into her always-worried new mother, whose constant earnestness echoes the movie's own eager-to-please-ness. Dianne Wiest and Rosemarie DeWitt do their best with one-note roles (stern dowager and catty sister).
But still ... breaking through is that tantalizing allegory. Timothy represents a Nature well aware that "to everything there is a season" (and seeing a modern child's sense of death on-screen remains unusual). But he's also a Christ-child (his pose, his Messianic message) and a mini-Adam, who makes a garden in the woods with his Eve. The movie seems pitched on that fine line between the New Testament and New Ageyness, to appeal to two large demographics. And, though the picture doesn't always handle it right, especially by rewarding them at the end, The Odd Life of Timothy Green shows just how overprotective and narcissistic parents can be. Wanna-be Mom and Dad try to live through Timothy, using him to work out their own family issues and personal insecurities. They're well-meaning jerks—if only the movie around them had plunged deeper into its well of meaning and stopped jerking at our heartstrings.
Directed by Peter Hedges
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