'The Odd Life of Timothy Green' (PG)

 

Manipulative but effective fairy tale about a boy who sprouts from a garden.

80173_gal.jpg

By Rene Rodriguez rrodriguez@MiamiHerald.com

He sprouts from their garden and walks into their house, naked and covered in dirt, this curious 10-year-old boy named Timothy (CJ Adams). Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) had been trying and failing to have a child of their own, and suddenly, without explanation, now they have a son.

Timothy is polite and conscientious and an all-around good kid. He also happens to have leaves growing from his ankles, but that’s nothing a pair of tube socks can’t hide. After checking with police to make sure no one has reported a missing child, Cindy and Jim give in to the miracle: They have a beautiful, wonderful son to love, and he loves them back. So what if they can’t explain how, exactly, he got there?

The Odd Life of Timothy Green was written and directed by Peter Hedges (Pieces of April, Dan in Real Life), who has a keen eye for the small, seemingly insignificant details that make up our everyday lives. He has great compassion, too, for people and all their flaws, from Jim’s gruff, competitive dad (David Morse) to Cindy’s meddling sister (Rosemarie DeWitt), the sort of person who seems to take silent pleasure in the miseries of others.

All of them will be changed for the better by Timothy, who is played by Adams as an immensely likable and intelligent kid who happens to possess near-saintly qualities. Sometimes, when he’s outdoors, he spreads his arms and basks in the sunlight, resembling a pint-sized Messiah with a perpetual smile. He’s almost too good to be true, this kid. Then, with the onset of fall, one of the leaves on his ankles turns brown and falls off. Uh-oh.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green has been made with a family audience in mind: The film radiates sweet, good-natured vibes, much like Timothy does, and even the would-be villains (such as Dianne Wiest’s amusing turn as an officious rich woman) turn out to be softies at heart. The film’s earnestness makes up for its high corn factor. You’d have to be a scrooge to mock a picture as heartfelt as this one. And even as Timothy continues to lose his leaves, and the story inches toward its not-quite-happy finale, Hedges doesn’t opt for cheap tears. Instead, he figures out a way to send you home smiling and happy. The Odd Life of Timothy Green isn’t a story about childhood: This is really a fable about parenting and its accompanying joys and sorrows, done in the trademark Walt Disney style of pleasant, feel-good entertainment that doesn’t leave much of an emotional trace.

Cast: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, Dianne Wiest, M. Emmet Walsh, Ron Livingston, Common.

Writer-director: Peter Hedges.

Producers: Scott Sanders, James Whitaker, Ahmet Zappa.

A Walt Disney Pictures release. Running time: 100 minutes. Adult themes. Playing at area theaters.

Speak Up!