The titular character in Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a wondrous kid, the type any parent would be happy and proud to have. He’s generous, kind, funny and lovable and he always sees the positive in things. Early in the movie, when he fails miserably at soccer, his coach asks him why he’s smiling, to which he glowingly replies, “I can only get better.” He’s an ideal kid for any parent and it’s impossible not to love him. If only the same could be said for his movie. While certainly not bad, it fails to grab the viewer in a meaningful way. Its wish for tears brings only the occasional goose bump and its humorous moments are only funny in a “how cute” kind of way. It’s enough to get it by, but the film clearly has higher emotional aspirations and it doesn’t ever fully reach them.
The film begins with Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) at an adoption agency. They’re in the process of telling a strange and miraculous story to an adoption agent, but it begins with a sad notion. After trying for years, they were told that they would never have children, a thought that crushed them. One night, they decided to write out on little cards what their ideal child would be like. They hoped for a child with a big heart who was honest, artistic and funny—not burp and fart funny, but actually funny—among other things. They took those wishes, placed them in a box and buried the box in their backyard garden. That night, a storm hit and a child popped into existence with all the characteristics they wrote out on those cards. They didn’t quite know what to do at first, but after he revealed his name was Timothy (CJ Adams), the only boy name they had picked out, they realized something special had happened. They quickly took him in, but strangely, he had leaves poking out of his legs. They didn’t know it at the time, but those leaves had a strong significance and they were eventually going to find it out what that significance was.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a silly premise given a silly execution and a heavy handed ending. It goes nowhere you don’t expect it to and it hits each emotional beat as surely as a jump scene in a horror movie, but its central character’s likability cannot be denied and it elevates its dramatically rote story from tolerable to entertaining, even if only mildly so. Its only surprises come from an uneven tone that sometimes feels more like one of those jumpy horror movies than a family friendly adoption tale. The beginning in particular, if not for the slow, soothing music could easily be mistaken for one. When the storm hits, the camera heads outside where it’s shown that something is pushing its way through the soil. Back inside, the door is open, making enough noise to make Jim check it out. He closes the door and grabs a drink at the fridge before heading back to bed, at which Timothy promptly runs in front of the camera, a shadow in an already darkened interior, the only thing missing being the startling musical cue. Coupled with the fact that the house is isolated from any neighboring town or person, it almost felt like I was watching The Strangers 2 than a Disney movie.
Its creepy factor extends from these horror elements, though, into at least one strangely sensual and increasingly awkward scene where Timothy paints a portrait of Cindy’s boss. Before he begins, he walks up to her and slowly takes her glasses off before letting down her hair with a softness that would have led up to a sex scene in another movie. It’s an uncomfortable moment and it blows my mind that nobody involved in this film’s production spoke up about it.
So I suppose the question is: why am I recommending it? Because the moments mentioned are only brief departures from what is otherwise a feel good charmer. It has some plot turns that don’t work, including the death of Uncle Bub (M. Emmet Walsh), who is shown in one scene prior, which is certainly not enough to make an impact, and it thinks it’s more profound than it really is, but the performances are good and it will make you smile more than it will make you cringe. The world these characters inhabit isn’t perfect, but it’s also not violent and its goodness outshines the rampant negativity we’re used to in our own world. If nothing else, The Odd Life of Timothy Green allows you to live in a happy place for two hours and for that alone, it’s worth seeing.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green receives 3/5