The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a wonderful fairy tale for parents, would-be parents, and folks who wanna be parents. And if you’re fine with talk of parenthood, kids and the struggle many have to become parents, you’ll enjoy this sweet story. Good work, Disney, for coming up with a fairy tale for grownups.
Cindy (Jennifer Garner, with a fantastic Small Town Chic wardrobe) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) have done just about everything they possibly can in order to become parents. Unfortunately, the good ol’ fashioned way isn’t in the stars for them. So one night, over many glasses of wine, they draw up a “dream list” of things they’d love to see in the child they’ll never have. What starts off as tearful ends up as a joyful (and drunken) riot of cheering, laughing and bittersweet wishing. They put the list in an old cigar box and bury it in their garden, thinking they’ve closed the door on that chapter of their lives. Surprise! In a freak rainstorm that only seems to drench their yard, they find that they’re not alone; a muddy child has found his way into their home. A child named Timothy — Cindy and Jim’s dream-list name — that calls them Mom and Dad. There’s a hole in the garden where the cigar box used to be, and the kid has leaves on his ankles. Guess the old “cabbage patch” tale could be true….
Relative newcomer CJ Adams (Dan in Real Life) plays young Timothy with a wiser-than-his-years aura and sense of openness and zest for life. It’s hard to tell at this age whether it’s a lucky bit of acting or a hint of greater things to come; I’m hoping for the latter. Garner and Edgerton give lovely performances, with just enough tongue-in-cheek to keep this fairy tale fresh and inviting.
I kept thinking about the old “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” cliche that adults used to trot out when I was a kid. Here, Timothy is definitely of unknown origin, yet people who give him a chance find themselves changed. Isn’t that the way a fairy tale is supposed to go? Plus, Timothy’s friend Jodi (Odeya Rush), who looks like a tween that is one step away from rock star groupie, is herself someone who isn’t exactly what she seems. It’s okay to be different, and even a little bit “weird”, as long as you’re being you. That’s a good lesson for kids (and adults), and it’s delivered with a spoonful of sugar.
The story idea is from author Ahmet Zappa (“The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless”, and yes he’s Frank’s son), though writer/director Peter Hedges fleshed out the screenplay. Hedges has a knack for quirky films, and for doing double duty; as writer and director for Dan in Real Life and Pieces of April, he’s delivered sweet stories that don’t cover up ugly truths. Same goes for The Odd Life of Timothy Green. As viewers get to know Cindy and Jim, they become more than just perfect characters and become flesh and blood people that make mistakes and try to rise above.
Will kids want to see it? Wellllll…not the very young ones (they’ll be fidgety during parents-heavy scenes), not the ones who have firmly moved into their teen years (they’ll be wanting to queue up for The Campaign instead). But parents of elementary & early middle-school aged kids could find their kids enjoying Timothy and Joni’s story, as well as the scenes of school life and soccer.
The moral of The Odd Life of Timothy Green? There’s only so much time, make the most of it. Never give up on your dreams. And, if you’re a grow-your-own vegan that plants a dream-child wish list in your veggie patch, don’t be surprised if you have a little sprout knocking at your door. Not a bad thing, and not a bad film.