Movie Review: The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
"The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is an achingly sweet parent-and-child tearjerker that's every bit as precious as its title.
But it's an oddly emotion-free fantasy, a film that strains to find the magic, joy and heartbreak in a story manufactured with those traits in mind.
Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton ("Warrior") play the Greens, a small-town couple who long to have a child of their own. They've hit the end of the road, medically, for accomplishing that. In tears, Cindy Green declares, "We're moving on." And husband Jim takes that a step further. They'll write the traits of the baby they never had on slips of paper.
The Greens bury the slips of paper in a box in their garden. And one dark and stormy night, a 10-year-old boy (CJ Adams) pops out of the Earth, calls them "Mom" and "Dad," and lives up to every trait they gave him. Oddly, Timothy Green has leaves growing out of his calves and feet.
The parents react to this stunning turn of events with conflicted feelings of science and faith. They immediately cover up his origins and plop him into school. And they get him lots of long athletic socks.
The film's charm, romance, comedy and heartache come from Timothy's naive, open-hearted efforts to fit in, to live up to the credo his parents wrote for him. He melts the hearts of older relatives (M. Emmet Walsh, David Morse), wins the affections of tweenage siren Joni (Odeya Rush) and underwhelms his soccer coach (Common), while his parents fuss over him.
Garner is quite good at making us connect with a character's emotions, and if "Odd Life" has a hope of earning tears, it's through Cindy. The rough-edged Edgerton is more earnest and eager than good as a dad with dad issues of his own (Morse plays his father). But the kid is radiant, a convincingly buoyant boy who makes innocent mistakes because he is just that — utterly innocent.
Here's the film's fatal flaw: The story is told in flashback, with the Greens trying to convince an adoption counselor (Shohreh Aghdashloo) to give them another try at parenthood. Something went wrong with Timothy, but if they can just tell their incredible story to her, maybe they'll get another shot.
Writer-director Peter Hedges isn't telling a story with enough magic, emotion or mystery to overcome that giveaway.