Disney // 2012 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // December 10th, 2012
He's a force of nature.
Many people see fantasy as entirely escapist, which is half-right. Fantasy is surely a place to escape, to lose oneself in another world. However, that's not all that fantasy is. It's also a potent way of making the stuff of everyday life strange enough to be dealt with. The more difficult something is to deal with in reality, the better fantasy it often makes. Though it's not often talked about in our baby obsessed culture, the inability to conceive is the dark twin of culture's focus on fertility. Few films tackle this particular conundrum (except for laughs), but The Odd Life of Timothy Green not only makes a fantasy out of this difficulty, but a winningly winsome family film. Though it might be lost on very young children, for the over-eight crowd this family flick will win some hearts.
Cindy (Jennifer Garner, Juno) and Jim (Joel Edgerton, The Thing) Green want to have a baby, but can't. On a dark and stormy night they write down all the attributes they'd want their theoretical child to have, seal them in a box, and bury them in the yard. The next morning, up pops the leafy Timothy (CJ Adams, Dan in Real Life). Though unsure of how or why he's appeared in their lives, Cindy and Jim are grateful, and though his time with them is limited, they make the most of The Odd Life of Timothy Green.
The basic premise of The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a pretty simple, well-trodden one: a pair of grieving parents-to-be are brought close by some outside force that knits their relationship tighter and makes them ready to tackle the challenges of parenthood. Sometimes that outside force is a dying friend, sometimes it's a cute puppy. In the case of The Odd Life of Timothy Green, it's a little boy who crawls out of the ground. To the film's credit, it doesn't try to diminish how weird its premise is. In fact, it goes out of its way to accentuate the whimsical, strangely beautiful idea of a leafy little boy emerging from the ground to hopeless parents.
Of course the best fantasies are grounded in reality, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green is grounded by its adult performers. Jennifer Garner has experience in playing a mother who can't conceive (Juno), but here she tempers her previous heartache with an infectious sense of wonderment at Timothy. Edgerton is a bit more stoic as Jim; he wants to view this new boy as a blessing but he's afraid of being hurt. Rosemarie DeWitt is perfectly cast as the in-law who has the perfect life (named, appropriately enough, Brenda Best), and Common continues to show that he's an asset in smaller roles as a soccer coach at Timothy's school.
As a family film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green walks the fine line between handling big problems (like being unable to conceive) while still maintaining a sense of wonder at the world. Though cynical older teens might balk at the sappy storyline, most kids will likely fall in love with the leafy Timothy Green and his helpful personality, while adults will appreciate (and sympathize with) the more serious storyline of his parents. Though I won't spoil it, the ending has an appropriately wistful and hopeful tone that avoids the purely saccharine.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Blu-ray) looks as fantastic as its premise. The 1.85:1/1080p transfer is gorgeous. The earthy browns and greens look beautiful, and detail is strong throughout. Black levels are consistent and deep, and no digital problems crop up. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is similarly impressive. Dialogue is clean and clear from the front, and the balance with the film's music is great. Some directionality is present, but it's not a blockbuster flick.
Extras start with a commentary by writer/director Peter Hughes (who adapted a story by Ahmet Zappa!), who discusses the making of the film and the tone he wanted to set with the production. There are a pair of featurettes as well that cover general making-of info and the film's score. There are also five deleted scenes, with optional commentary by Hughes, and they flesh out the film a bit. Finally, there's a music video for "The Gift" by Glen Hansard. As with most Disney releases, this Blu-ray also comes with a DVD copy of the film.
Of course The Odd Life of Timothy Green's premise also sounds like a horror film. I mean c'mon, a kid appears out of the ground to frustrated would-be parents. Not only that, but he appears to be the perfect little kid? It's too good to be true -- sounds like a recipe for a horror flick to me. Of course you don't have to be a cynic to find the whole idea behind The Odd Life of Timothy Green a bit icky. Children appearing out of the ground might be whimsical, but it's also a bit frightening. I know I would freak out if a dirty kid showed up in my house one day.
Even the most sympathetic viewers will have to admit, though, that there's one thing that The Odd Life of Timothy Green's fantastic premise and gentle whimsy can't overcome: this is a really predictable movie. Frustrated would-be parents plus magical child in a family film is a pretty simple equation for all but the most movie-averse viewers to solve. The disappointing thing about Timothy Green is that it holds no surprises. Every beat is pre-programmed in advance, from the little boy's appearance to the final moments.
As a family flick, The Odd Life of Timothy Green hits the appropriate notes, and is helped tremendously by a stellar cast. However, it's a bit too predictable for adventurous viewers, so it's probably only worth a rental to most. This Blu-ray, however, is a solid release and fans of the film won't be disappointed by the excellent audiovisual presentation and handful of extras.
It's a bit odd, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Descriptive)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Video
* DVD Copy