It's certainly a schmaltz-fest. That much is clear just from the advertisements. This being a Disney movie, it unashamedly wears its heart on its sleeve, but the real question here is - when did that become a bad thing?
We film critics tend to be a cynical lot, coldly examining the technical merits of a film and exploring its inner meanings (intended or not) and political ramifications that we often fail to just sit back and let a movie speak to us. The fact is not all movies are made to stimulate the brain. Some are made to stimulate the heart. And that's not always something that should be completely written off.
|CJ Adams, (left) plays Timothy and Jennifer Garner, (right) plays Cindy Green in Walt Disney Pictures' 'The Odd Life of Timothy Green', directed by Peter Hedges. Ph: Phil Bray. © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.|
Ultimately, it is a movie about parenting. A childless couple, Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton), have tried desperately for years to have a child of their own. After exhausting every known medical solution, the doctors finally tell them to give up. Heartbroken, the couple sits down and makes a list of every quality their imaginary child might have had, and in order to move on, they put the slips of paper in a box and bury it in the garden. That night, something magical happens, and out from the garden emerges the son they'd always dreamed of - an eight year old boy named Timothy (CJ Adams). Timothy is a seemingly normal child except for one thing - he has leaves growing out of his legs. Timothy quickly becomes part of the family, exhibiting all the traits they'd hoped he'd have. But as he touches the lives of all those around him, autumn begins to set in, and as Timothy's leaves begin to fall, it soon becomes apparent that he's hiding a painful secret that will change their lives forever.
|Timothy Green (CJ Adams, left) and Joni Jerome (Odeya Rush, right) form a special bond when each of them reveals their deepest secrets. Photo by: Phil Bray. © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.|
It is the film's earnestness that makes it so winning. In an era when irony seems to pervade our popular culture, Timothy Green's unabashed innocence seems like something out of another time. It embraces its simplicity wholeheartedly, and emerges as something both deeply beautiful and completely charming. Shot in gorgeous, warm tones by John Toll (Braveheart, The Thin Red Line) and scored with a disarming tenderness by Geoff Zanelli (The Pacific), The Odd Life of Timothy Green is anchored by a strong performance by newcomer CJ Adams in the title role. Surrounded by an impeccable supporting cast that includes M. Emmet Walsh, Lois Smith, Dianne Wiest, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, and Shohreh Aghdashloo, the film weasels its way into the heart and stays there, and those who are open to its particular charms will find a lot to cherish. Those who will find it unbearable (and you know who you are) are advised to stay far away. This isn't a film to be analyzed and picked apart for what it's not. It's a film to be felt for what it is. With an open heart (and an open mind), The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a wholly magical experience - a refreshingly old fashioned fable for the young and the young at heart.
GRADE - ★★★ (out of four)
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN | Directed by Peter Hedges | Stars Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, Shohreh Aghdashloo, M. Emmet Walsh, Lois Smith, Dianne Wiest | Rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief language | Now playing everywhere.