“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is an interesting Walt Disney movie. It has all the charm and good-natured enthusiasm that will appeal to children, but this is one that parents might love even more.
After years of trying, Cindy (Jennifer Garner, “Daredevil”) and Jim (Joel Edgerton, “Warrior”) Green have finally come to grips with the fact that they’re not going to be able to have children of their own. With Jim’s job at a pencil making factory tenuous due to budget woes and Cindy’s low-paying job as a museum employee, their doctor advises them against the expensive treatments to help her get pregnant.
Garner and Edgerton click quickly as a believable couple and I’d have a hard time finding two more likable actors for the roles. As Cindy and Jim leave the doctor’s office and the reality starts sinking in that they’ll be childless, Garner and Edgerton’s dejected expressions and body language give the scene all the background we need to know about them and instantly gain the audience’s sympathy/support. It’s a delicate balance of not manipulating the audience to like the characters and Garner and Edgerton are so genuine you don’t feel forced to root for Cindy and Jim, but you want to see them get that child they so desperately want.
They write a wish list of all the great qualities their child would have had and put the notes in a box they bury in their backyard. In true fairy tale fashion, a young boy named Timothy (a debuting CJ Adams) comes from the garden and promptly refers to them as his parents. Timothy seems perfectly normal with the exception of a cluster of leaves around his shins that hold the one secret he won’t tell his “parents.”
After the initial shock, Jim and Cindy quickly take to their new charge — it’s easy as Adams makes Timothy an immensely likable child — and introduce him to their families. Jim is especially determined to be a better father than his (David Morse, “Treme”) while Cindy relishes the opportunity to not be forced to endure stories of all the accomplishments of her nieces and nephews from her overbearing sister Brenda (“Your Sister’s Sister’s” Rosemarie DeWitt in a solid supporting role). Timothy makes some connection with everyone he encounters, but he’s especially fond of schoolmate Joni (newcomer Odeya Rush), even if Jim and Cindy are concerned about him already having an interest in girls.
Despite the more fantastical elements, Director/Screenwriter Peter Hedges (“Dan in Real Life”) skillfully keeps a larger than life premise magical in a fairly realistic world. There is the one issue of why no one questions where Jim and Cindy got a school-age child and why no one called child protective services …
Hedges — a 2003 Oscar co-screenwriting nominee for “About a Boy” — gets how to capture a child’s voice without making them sound like adults and resists the urge to make Timothy such a perfect child that he’s a boring character. Adams is able to convey Timothy’s secret with a sadness that every so often he allows to sneak through as he nears the real reason he entered Jim and Cindy’s life.
His direction is refreshingly bright with vibrant colors to match the script’s lively pace. As the seasons turn, fall leads to some standout scenes with colors so rich that Hedges shows you don’t have to watch a movie in 3D to be wowed.
Hedges has the right mindset in that a family film doesn’t have to be dumbed-down to be fun for everyone and it helps make “Green” such a charming winner. It’s not overly cute or goofy, but touching all the same. Hedges get the best out of his performers to make this one of the more enjoyable family films of the summer.
Rating: 7 out of 10