Thursday, August 30, 2012

Reel Thoughts: Leave It To Timothy

Watching the opening twenty minutes of The Odd Life of Timothy Green (now in theaters from Walt Disney Pictures) if not for the jaunty soundtrack, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled into a creepy horror movie, given how director Peter Hedges stages it. After receiving bad news that they can never conceive a child, Jim and Cindy Green (Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner) bury a box containing notes of the qualities their child would have had in their garden. Lightning flashes and a downpour drenches the drought-stricken farm. Something starts clawing its way out of the mud while Jim and Cindy sleep. Hearing a noise, Jim goes to investigate and a figure flashes by like in Pet Sematary. Returning to bed, he puts his arm around the shrouded figure next to him just as Cindy emerges from the bathroom. Whatever was in the bed disappears, leaving mud from its burial site on the sheets. Finally, Jim and Cindy find a muddy and naked Timothy Green in the nursery, complete with tender leaves protruding from his calves.

This disorienting opening along with a clunky framing device featuring Shoreh Agdashloo as an adoptions agent to whom Garner and Edgerton tell their tale both feel like Test Screening add-ons, and they do nothing to help the plot.

Timothy (CJ Adams) is Jim and Cindy’s dream child, and he seems to annoy or charm whoever he meets. Adams starts out charming you but veers toward annoying you as the film progresses. Anyone unfortunate enough to see Eddie Murphy’s A Thousand Words will know that all is not well when Timothy starts losing his leaves, but he doesn’t tell his parents that he’s experiencing Fall just like the foliage around him. He doesn’t do anything especially magical or special, yet he is utterly revered.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green has an interesting setting, “the pencil capital of the world” run by a sternly rich family headed by matriarch Dianne Wiest, and I appreciated the attention given to the town’s drought-stricken condition, but these layers go nowhere.

The film is a harmless diversion that nowhere near captures the fun and memorability of classic Disney live action films. It is charming, has questionable plotting and character development and it will fade from your mind by the time the Autumn leaves begin to fall.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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