The Odd Life of Timothy Green

The last schmaltz— Cringe-inducing pap never misses a chance to be cutesy

Aug 15, 2012 at 12:00 am
Lightning brings CJ Adams' kid character to life. Jennifer Garner plays a happy mom.
Lightning brings CJ Adams' kid character to life. Jennifer Garner plays a happy mom.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green| D

The new film The Odd Life of Timothy Green belongs to an increasingly rare breed of mainstream American films in which nothing explodes, no one is stabbed, there is no nudity or profanity to speak of, there are no sex jokes and no one wears a fat suit or lip-syncs to a '90s gangsta rap track in their pajamas. It is a gentle, sweet-natured and uplifting family film, and that alone is something to be proud of; I just wish that it weren't total rubbish. A hackneyed slab of megachurch pulpit pabulum, Timothy Green packs in more honeyed homilies than an entire season of Highway to Heaven, spoon-feeding syrupy comfort down the audiences' throats with wild abandon.

Jennifer Garner seems to have cornered the market on playing brittle, infertile yet baby-hungry women (see Juno), and she stars alongside the solid but clinically dull Joel Edgerton (Warrior) as a youngish, barren married couple living in a nondescript one-horse Midwestern town. Heartbroken that they can't conceive, our couple Cindy and Jim write down all their hopes and wishes for an imaginary child, burying it in a box in the back yard out by the old oak tree. One zap of magic lighting and, suddenly, the couple is blessed by a fully grown, pre-fab elementary-schooler who pops out of the dirt ready to be loved and to teach them valuable life lessons. The kid (CJ Adams) is not only miraculous in origin, but he's sensitive, wise and adorably quirky, perpetually sporting dorky '70s-style knee-high socks to cover up his leaf-covered ankles. The townsfolk don't ask too many serious questions about this strange newcomer, though any initial suspicions of this pint-sized weirdo are slowly worn down by his aggressive cheerfulness and beyond-his-years insights. He has many gifts: He can draw like an art college graduate, can hold his breath for long stretches, and has surprising soccer skills when the disgruntled coach (Common) lets him off the bench. When Timothy comes up with a revolutionary, eco-friendly idea to save the local pencil factory, it leads to one of the cheesiest bits of dialogue in memory: "If this boy can have leaves on his feet, then we can make a pencil out of leaves!" 

The cliché-riddled script, written by Peter Hedges, from a story by Ahmet Zappa of all people, is stocked with cringe-inducing pap, never missing an opportunity to be cutesy. Hedges also directed, and has made much better, more sophisticated family-focused dramas, such as Pieces of April and What's Eating Gilbert Grape. That touch eludes him here, where everything is postcard pretty, but hopelessly, dreadfully cloying. The Odd Life of Timothy Green really wants to be a beautiful flower, but it's only mulch.