The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012)
Starring- Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, M. Emmet Walsh, Lois Smith, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dianne West, Ron Livingston, James Rebhorn, Common
Director- Peter Hedges
PG- mild thematic elements and brief language
Okay. So, there’s eating a piece of candy, which is delicious even though it’s not good for you. And then there’s downing entire fistfuls of pure sugar nonstop for nearly two hours — it stops tasting good after about five minutes, and you’d feel absolutely terrible afterward.
Part of the appeal of The Odd Life of Timothy Green is that it aims to be a family film of the sort Disney used to make, back before they decided to essentially become a live-action DreamWorks Animation and leave the “being heartfelt” stuff to Pixar. But there’s on problem — The Odd Life of Timothy Green is an old-timey Disney family movie on steroids.
And it is very nearly unwatchable.
It is the story of two parents (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) whose names I have forgotten and am not particularly compelled to look up at this time. They are…people, I guess. They’re kind of indistinct.
Well, she can’t conceive. Having exhausted every medical option, they shrug their shoulders and basically try magic (okay, okay, they’re clearly just trying to make each other feel better, but still, most people don’t do it that way), burying a box filled with scraps of paper describing their perfect child outside in the garden.
One particularly bad rainstorm later, they are blessed with a perfect, angelic child who is incapable of doing wrong, beyond little bits of mischief just slight enough to leave him innocent while also creating adorable comedic wackiness.
And then, well… Stuff happens, I guess. There isn’t really a plot. Or a conflict, really. Little conflicts here and there, sure, such as they are. It’s very slice of life, but it hones in on the lamest and most boring slices of aforementioned life.
Look. I wouldn’t say that I was really anticipating The Odd Life of Timothy Green, but there was a part of me that was at least somewhat interested in it. I grew up on movies like this.
But the family movies Disney used to make… Well, okay, they were schmaltzy, sentimental, and layered in sugar, but they did have plots. They did have characters, with actual personalities. And they also, sometimes, actually had moments that were dark or intense or emotional in a way that went beyond cookie-cutter superficiality.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green… Well, its poster looks like a shampoo label, for crying out loud. And the movie itself, well, it’s basically a shampoo commercial, all cute moments, largely taking place out in forested areas or rustic countryside homes, shot with a persistent velvety light, set almost exclusively in spring and autumn but never winter or rain unless it’s a SAD SCENE YOU GUYS.
And this movie’s Big Sad Scene You Guys is more arbitrary than usual. It’s not there for any reason other than that, hey, feeling sadness is profound. Saying something? That’s not profound. But if tears were shed, hey, life change must have happened. It’s not even explained with, like, logic or anything.
Now would actually be a fantastic time to mention that Timothy Green, the perfect child the protagonists receive, has leaves on his ankles. This has…basically nothing to do with the plot, beyond lending it some touching imagery to use for the end.
Honestly, it’s a movie about parents raising children. The beginning of the movie and the end of the movie have fantastical elements. None of the other scenes do. Which kind of begs the question of why it’s there at all.
(The answer is, “Because it provides the movie with its much sought-after opportunity for Arbitrary Sadness.”)
The whole thing plays out pretty much as a vignette entitled “Adorable Things Little Kids Do, Particularly When They Are Sinless Angels Sent Directly from the Lap of God.”
Timothy is kind of perfect. Oh, but he’s also weird and can’t play sports. It’s so hard raising problem children, you guys.
The movie moves from one thing to the other — parenting, discipline, young love, first day of school, organized youth sports. Some films have pulled this off, but The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a pseudo-coming-of-age story that applies absolutely no personality to any of these moments beyond sweetness and everything being clean and unmarred by messy reality where life is sometimes not perfect. It’s the type of movie where characters speak dialogue, but nothing is ever really said. It invents plots and conflicts as needed, wrapping them up in a single scene or just saving them for later. Not one thing leads into another.
It’s hard to even tell what this movie is saying. Usually, a creator’s worldview will emerge in his or her art even if it is absolutely terrible. Heck, there are things I can tell you Michael Bay probably believes based solely on his “creative” output. But The Odd Life of Timothy Green is so impossibly generic that absolutely nothing of its creators escapes into the script. What I know about Peter Hedges based on this movie… Well, he probably likes the smell of scented candles. I’ll even go a step further and bet that he has a particular taste for pine-scented ones.
Worldview? Beats me.
I’m not sure what the moral is here. What the main characters learn, as far as I can guess it, is that they’re not terrible parents because they managed not to screw up an utterly perfect and sinless child over a period of time that could not possibly be longer than a few months. They don’t even have to raise him as a baby, dealing with dirty diapers and sleepless nights and all that unpleasantness. No, they’re immediately blessed with a child who’s old enough not to be a problem and young enough to fill their lives with cuteness and innocence. Win-win. Because of this situation, they somehow overcome their loosely defined insecurities and decide they’re ready for for-reals parenting.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is what would happen if you could set a Precious Moments calendar in motion and just let it run unimpeded for two hours. There’s no plot, no themes, and no characters to speak of, but gosh darn is it adorable.
So adorable, in fact, that it becomes completely impossible to watch without getting nauseous.