Strangely enough, a child springing from the ground with leaves on his ankles wasn’t the most unbelievable thing about “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.” The film is like a painting, beautifully crafted and visually pleasing, using forced perspective to simulate depth. It’s a nice film, one that families can enjoy together, so long as no one thinks too hard.
That said, there is nothing objectionable in the film, nothing that creates an overwhelming amount of tension. It moves from one place to another, without asking questions or requiring explanation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most family audiences want to use movies as an event rather than an experience, and “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” delivers on that end. Good things happen to the characters in the film, and when they don’t, the bad things aren’t really that bad. I tend to like films that ask a little more of me, but then I’m not the intended audience.
Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy Green (Jennifer Garner) want a child. They’ve been told that it’s impossible. So they decide to put their dream behind them by writing down the characteristics of their ideal child and burying it in the garden in the backyard. It rains during the night and a little boy named Timothy appears from a hole in the ground and delights everyone he meets. No one really asks where he came from and the ones that do don’t really listen to the answers. Friends and family accept this little boy, despite his overnight appearance. No one wonders how a child comes into the possession of a previously childless couple desperate for kids.
Where I might ask much harder questions, the community just accepts Timothy because it’s so nice.
This is the type of town that exists nowhere in America. It has a pencil factory, where Jim works, and a pencil museum, where Cindy works. The landscape is Rockwell Americana, with nice local businesses, nice churches and nice schools. Despite the threat of the pencil factory shutting down, people are generally happy and friendly. There isn’t a title loan or check-cashing shop in sight. There are no fast food restaurants or strip malls. No one watches TV unless they are depressed. I found the location so unlikely, the people so accepting, the situations so nonthreatening, that a little boy that appears to be part plant was easier to accept as real.
Jim and Cindy take to being overbearing helicopter parents with gusto. Given that no one in the film acts like a real person, their behavior is mostly excusable. They cheer for him at soccer, give him weird advice, and rip off a dance number from a much better family film, “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Timothy is one of those kids who are both wise and friendly, without a lick of fear or anger. I’ve never met a 10-year-old like him, which is probably why he is perceived as somewhat off. There are attempts at making statements about fathers and sons, jealousy, the out-of-touch wealthy. These could all be worthwhile in the context of the film, but without effective development they exist only on the surface. The performances are all good, but the actors don’t have a lot to work with.
For some reason, this movie is rated PG. I don’t know what types of children could be negatively affected by the film without parental guidance. I suspect the warning exists for parents like the Greens. The scariest person in the movie is Common, and that’s just because I’ve seen him stab a man to death on AMC’s “Hell on Wheels.” I remain unimpressed with the MPAA.
I would recommend this film to parents who want a simple movie to see with their kids. I know mine would enjoy it. For everyone else, just wait until it’s played ad infinitum on ABC Family.