I don't usually like a movie that includes “magic” it never bothers to explain.
Yet I thoroughly enjoyed “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” a Disney throwback to the kind of family film that rarely gets made anymore. This is a movie multiple generations can enjoy together. For want of a better word, it is sweet — without milking sentiment to the point of manipulation.
Yes, the teens may get a little restless because it's not as action-packed as they like. But I think even jaded teens might connect with the messages “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” contains about bullying, parenting, being okay with being “different,” making mistakes and following your creative instincts.
The movie opens with a young couple being interviewed at an adoption agency. They make their case for being given a child by telling a vivid story from their recent past. The story, told in multiple flashbacks, is the movie.
It begins when they must face some hard truths: They aren't able to have their own children.
Cindy (Jennifer Garner, “Juno”) tearfully says it's time to move on. Jim (Joel Edgerton, “Warrior”) isn't quite ready. He insists that together they imagine the child they wanted, and all the qualities that child would have had: honest to a fault, funny like Uncle Bub, big-hearted, artistic, a kid who would just once get to make the winning score at an athletic event, and so on.
They put their list in a box, bury it in the garden, and say good night to their dream.
But in the middle of the night a storm brews, and suddenly a boy of about 10 years old is tracking mud around their house, calling them Mom and Dad.
He came from the garden. His name is Tim, the name they had picked for a son. He has leaves growing out of his ankles.
You may have as much trouble swallowing this as the adoption people (Shohreh Aghdashloo, “House of Sand and Fog,” marvelous). Stick around anyway. The kid has a lot to learn about the world, and a lot to give it as well when it comes to insights about living, and even dying.
Among those his unusual qualities rub off on are Cindy's competitive sister (Rosemarie DeWitt), Jim's hard-nosed dad (David Morse), Cindy's Uncle Bub (M. Emmet Walsh), Jim's boss at the failing pencil factory (Ron Livingston), Cindy's boss at the pencil museum (a dour Dianne Wiest) and a pretty girl (Odeya Rush) who, like Tim, has a difference she's hiding.
Yes, Tim's parents hide his leafy ankles, hoping to spare him from ridicule. There's a lesson in that as well.
“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is idealistic, hopeful, unabashedly sentimental — and the ending is predictably pat. But it doesn't preach, and it should be a real conversation starter for parents and families about dealing with sticky situations life hands out to us all.
The acting is first-rate, the small-town Georgia scenery is beautiful, and the screenplay's message wide open to where you live. What else can you ask of a PG movie these days?
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