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Coming from the director who wrote “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” audiences should expect something almost as weird and nowhere near as audacious in Disney’s “The Odd Life Of Timothy Green,” the latest film by Peter Hedges.
If you’ve seen “Juno,” imagine if Jennifer Garner’s character got divorced from her husband in that film because he got along too well with the mother of their adopted daughter (Juno), and she then went and remarried a man named Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) from Stanleyville – the pencil capital of the world. Of course, Cindy Green (Garner) is (still) infertile, and upon the couple’s learning that there’s no conceivable way for them to have a child together, they get drunk one night and make a wish, planting a wooden box in the back yard with paper fragments which have written down on them the characteristics of their would-be child.
What pops out of Cindy’s garden after a violent thunderstorm is 10 year-old Timothy Green (CJ Adams) – a strange but courteous young boy who has leaves growing from his legs. Jim and Cindy are as astonished with their child as the audience is at this point, but they quickly embrace his awkwardness and call him their own even though Timothy is clearly different; well, different in the sense that he’s not really good at anything.
More than the story of a boy that is different, “The Odd Life Of Timothy Green” is a story about parenting – specifically, how a parent finds out what their child is good at. Jim and Cindy try signing him up for the local Erasers youth soccer team, defending him when he gets picked on, and everything else they can do to make his new life as likeable as possible – but they still have no idea how to parent.
We’ve heard this story before: dad didn’t have a real dad in his life, mom is too modest and she can’t keep up with the other over extravagant coffee-fueled soccer moms – but we’ve never heard of this favorable outcome that you can actually grow a child in your garden if you can’t conceive one. It's immature of them to know nothing about parenting and yet still wish for a child. They even try to keep Tim away from the only person he finds a real connection with, a pretty and artsy girl named Joni (Odeya Rush) who initially is the only one to know Tim's real secret.
This is just the silliest of all existing silly concepts. It’s even sillier that the film goes back and forth from present (Jim and Cindy at DSS trying to adopt a child) to past (the time Timothy lived with them), with the two parents desperately trying to convince strict DSS officers that they’re worthy of parenting even though Timothy’s “odd” life didn’t have the most favorable outcome. Most of the cast, Edgerton and Garner specifically, don’t even look like they believe their lines when they’re saying them.
For a story this unconventional, Disney probably chose the right director in Hedges, but I’d be surprised if anyone could make “The Odd Life Of Timothy Green” into anything worth our thought or time. It’s a nice story, but it’s nothing new, nothing you haven’t seen before. You should probably avoid it unless you’re babysitting an odd child yourself and feel the need to take them to the movies.
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