Sometimes a movie is so positive and covered with icing, sprinkles, and marshmallows that it’s very difficult to give it a negative review. However, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. The Odd Life of Timothy Green is so soft and cuddly that it belongs on the Lifetime, Disney (who created it), or whatever Oprah’s network is called and should not be a feature film that cost me over $10 to see in a theater. Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) are dealing with the horrible news that although they have done everything physically and medically possible to conceive a child, it’s just not going to happen.
They share at least one bottle of wine while trying to cheerfully discuss what the child they’ll never have will be like. On a small notepad, they scribble things like a heart and a few pictures and words to describe him. Honest to a fault, soccer star, musical and artistic ability, etc. However, when the wine wears off and the reality wears then down, they put the scraps of paper in an old cigar box and bury it in their garden. That night there’s a storm that seems to focus only on their property. The next morning, there’s a hole where they’d buried the box and a mud-covered 10-year old boy in their house.
An annoying story-telling device is starting at the end and then telling a story back to that moment again but throwing in a little more beyond that. Like going from finish to start to finish. So when the story opens with Cindy and Jim trying to convince an adoption agency that they’re more than fit to be parents, we already know that Timothy will be gone, it’s just a matter of how and/or why. Timothy, having come from the garden, has leaves on his legs, and I’ll leave it at that.
The rest of the film is Cindy and Jim telling the adoption people all about Timothy as a way of proving that they deserve to be parents, and each short story they tell is connected to the characteristics Cindy and Jim want in their child, such as being able to “rock” and scoring the game-winning soccer goal, which happens, but doesn’t happen, but – you’ll see, nor maybe not. Timothy, like Rudolph, tries to keep his deformity a secret, but in a moment of puppy-love weakness he accidentally allows Joni (Odeya Rush), a girl on which he has a terrific crush, to get a peek inside his socks. She subsequently shares something that makes her different, a patch of a birthmark on her shoulder, and they become inseparable.
Stock characters in this formulaic story include but are not limited to the nervous new parents in moments of slapstick, the overly competitive and judgmental other parent with overachieving kids that; the cold, gruff grandfather of Timothy, also the father of Jim, who is still bitter from being ignored through his own childhood and is still trying to win approval; and heartless bosses who treat employees like used dental floss. The one positive thing I can say is that there are few moments that seem so sappy, soft, and sugar-coated that a dead man could predict the inevitable conclusion, but I was semi-pleasantly surprised when the director avoided that obvious conclusion most of the time. At the very end of the film there is a moment when I thought for sure I had predicted what would be a wonderful final scene, and even though I was wrong – I am definite that my prediction would have been better than what actually happened. I’ll leave that for the final paragraph to avoid any spoilage.
It is inevitable that Timothy will be gone and an explanation will be unclear, and it wasn’t a surprise that it was annoyingly vague and unexplained, but that’s the nature of a fantasy. A director says “trust me,” and we usually do, but only if the story is so compelling that it’s worth the risk. For those around me who were in tears, it was well worth it. For me, eh. It was a nice, safe movie to bring a child, but it’s nothing I would recommend unless you need something just plain “nice” to show a child.
A few unnecessary details: Both Cindy and Tim deal with job loss possibilities, she’s a pencil museum tour guide and he works in a pencil factory, yet they have a wonderful old house with at least a dozen acres and a horse. How could they afford all that? I guess it was inherited. It happens.
As for the spoiler, we never get to see Joni’s parents or family, and she has enough of an edgy side that I thought she might be a foster child. A really nice conclusion would have been that Cindy and Jim do not get to adopt a baby because of their strange, unbelievable story about Timothy, but they are allowed to adopt a foster child, and Joni is the child they are given.