Peter Hedges’ The Odd Life of Timothy Green — or as I wished they’d called it, I Was a Preteen Homunculus — is the tale of a married couple (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) who want so desperately to have a child that one (our titular Timothy, played by CJ Adams) literally grows from their garden. No one seems to question the legal or metaphysical ramifications of Swamp Thing Jr. (after all, this kid does have leaves growing from his legs) roaming around. But that’s not the point of the film, obviously. The point is…well, I’m not sure. Conceivably, it’s so that Timothy can teach everyone how to get along and be nice to one another (the usual).
The film’s magical realism and folksy vibe (much of the plot revolves around saving the local pencil factory of all things) doesn’t quite jibe with director Hedges’ workmanlike approach. Sure, the movie’s professionally and competently assembled, but what we have is a concept that asks for a bit more awe and wonder. In a lot of ways — right down to the title — the film is like a family-friendly, version of David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). The problem with both films is that they’re helmed by filmmakers who don’t understand whimsy or wonder. Hedges, though, thankfully, has made a movie that’s infinitely less dour.
But then, it’s a Disney movie so that’s to be expected. This is a film that desperately wants to be a bittersweet crowd-pleaser, but the emotional response is never earned. Adams as Timothy is a cow-eyed, mawkish little kid playing a character who’s just not very interesting. What does it all add up to? It’s too predictable and dramatically inert for most adults and too heavy for kids, all the while being sentimental in the most gooey of ways. When all is said and done, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a perfectly toothless, inoffensive movie — which is also its biggest problem. Rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief language.