Friday, August 17, 2012

Sappy And Entirely Predictable, The Odd Life Of Timothy Green Is Still Remarkably Good!

The Good: Decent acting, Good characters, Great tone
The Bad: Entirely predictable plot
The Basics: The Odd Life Of Timothy Green might be predictable, but it’s still surprisingly easy to connect to, even for those who are not predisposed toward such films!

I have a litmus test for films that I very use very seldomly. That test is if the movie evokes a strong emotional reaction, I often have to acknowledge that it is not simply the most technical rating system that defines how good the film is. Usually, that experience for me goes the other way; gut-wrenching horror movies, for example, that leave me wishing I was blind and deaf for how gross and stupid they are often earn ratings that are probably lower than the technical rating would honestly give them. For a very rare change of pace, The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is one that might not be as honestly good as it was emotionally enjoyable.

The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is a tearjerker and it works on that front. In the tradition of Pay It Forward (reviewed here!), The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is a largely predictable film that tugs on the heartstrings and is designed for the big emotional reaction from the audience. I’m not a huge fan of cheesy films that are designed to evoke tears from the audience. In fact, in my collection, I think only The Spitfire Grill (reviewed here!) might qualify. But as one who largely loathes children, if a movie about having children can actually evoke a strong emotional reaction in me, there is some inherent quality to the film.

The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is that film.

Beginning with Cindy and Jim Green appearing at a U.S. Adoption Services for a hearing, the pair begins to tell the two agents why they should be allowed to adopt. Their reason is simply “Timothy” and they begin to tell the story of what happened to them the prior September. Flashing back, Jim and Cindy tell the story of living and working in Stanleyville, the Pencil Capitol Of The World. Told that they cannot have a child of their own, the adults head back home to mourn. Unable to move on immediately, Jim decides to play a game with Cindy where they list all of the attributes they would want for a child of their own. Burying the box with their attributes, a magical rainstorm breaks the drought only over the Green house. Jim wakes up and he and Cindy discover a child there.

The child, Timothy, has leaves growing out of his ankles and to protect their new charge, Jim and Cindy have him hide them under socks. Discovering that Timothy’s leaves cannot be cut off, Cindy and Jim decide to sent him to school. Unfortunately, he is bullied there by the sons of Jim’s boss at the pencil factory and a mysterious girl. Taking Jim’s advice, Timothy attempts to flee from Joni the next time she encounters him and the two form a friendship based on their both being outsiders. As Timothy starts to have a profound effect on those around him, Jim and Cindy become more attached, not knowing the secret that Timothy is keeping from them both!

In fact, in plot structure, The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is remarkably like The Spitfire Grill, but with a more obvious “ticking clock” element. Almost immediately, Timothy begins to exhibit the traits that Jim and Cindy came up with for their ideal child. Oddly, they reference having different names for their ideal child in the box (Timothy being the only male name compared to the fifty-four girl names), but that scene is not actually included in the film. Timothy is a cute, honest child who has a big heart and a great sense of humor. As the film progresses, Jim and Cindy begin waiting for him to make the winning goal in a soccer game, which was one of the aspects of their ideal child they put in on a lark.

The other ticking clock comes from Timothy losing his leaves. After meeting Joni and when Uncle Bub is hospitalized, Timothy’s leaves begin to die and fall off. Still, he works to inspire his parents, getting them to create a new type of pencil in an attempt to save the Stanleyville pencil plant. At the same time, Timothy and Joni become closer and it becomes very clear that they share an uncommon bond.

In addition to the ultimately predictable element of The Odd Life Of Timothy Green, director Peter Hedges fails to land the original meeting between Timothy and Joni. Joni claims to be different and when she shows him her birthmark, it is not exactly clear what is different about her (her birthmark looks like a splotch of jelly on her shoulder and simply saying that she is different is not immediately clear). But as she and Timothy get closer, they have good chemistry and there is a refreshingly energetic and childish aspect to their relationship!

The characters in The Odd Life Of Timothy Green are interesting and engaging to watch. From the moment Timothy Green gets cleaned up and wrapped up in a towel, he dominates the scenes in the film. Jim’s problematic relationship with his father, Big Jim, makes him far less whitebread than he might initially appear and when Cindy becomes unrestrained with the head of the pencil industry’s family, Bernice Crudstaff, she’s actually hilarious.

On the acting front, The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is good. Child actors C.J. Adams and Odeya Rush (Timothy Green and Joni, respectively) actually do remarkably well with their characters. They play off one another incredibly well. This was actually the most significant role I had seen Joel Edgerton in and he lived up as Jim. He held up opposite David Morse, which is no small feat. Jennifer Garner is good, but given how many roles she played early on in Alias (reviewed here!), it is hard to tell how good her acting is in The Odd Life Of Timothy Green. She certainly does not show any new side to her performance as Cindy.

The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is heartwarming and fun and it works to its appropriate crescendo for the exact result it intends to get. And despite the faults it has in being obvious, The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is enjoyable and worth watching for the whole family.

For other Disney live-action works, please check out my reviews of:
John Carter
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Tron: Legacy
Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
Alice In Wonderland
Old Dogs
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
The Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement
The Princess Diaries


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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