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"THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN"
(2012) (Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton) (PG)

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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: As a couple tries to gain approval to adopt a child, they recount their story of a 10-year-old boy who magically came into their lives.
PLOT:
Cindy (JENNIFER GARNER) and Jim Green (JOEL EDGERTON) have long desired to have a biological child, but when that doesn't work, they opt to go the adoption route and have just one hurdle to clear. That's an interview with an adoption agency official (SHOHREH AGHDASHLOO) who will have the final say about their quest. She gets more than an earful when they tell her why they'd make good parents, and all of that relates to their prior time with a young boy named Timothy (CAMERON 'CJ' ADAMS).

After brainstorming a list of characteristics about the child they'll never have, they bury that, along with their dreams of having a biological child, out in the backyard in a small, wood box. That night, a storm whips up from nowhere and the approximately 10-year-old Timothy shows up in their house, covered in dirt, sprouting leaves from his legs, and immediately views them as his parents.

Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, the Greens immediately "adopt" the boy, much to the surprise of Cindy's married sister, Brenda (ROSEMARIE DeWITT), who's always bragging about her kids, and Jim's estranged father, James (DAVID MORSE), who was an emotionally absent father in Jim's childhood. They don't get much support at work either, be that Jim's pencil factory boss, Franklin Crudstaff (RON LIVINGSTON), and Cindy's museum director head, Ms. Crudstaff (DIANNE WIEST), or in convincing the youth soccer coach (COMMON) to put their boy in a match.

Timothy doesn't seem to mind, however, as he's game for anything and everything, not to mention that he's distracted by a slightly older girl, Joni (ODEYA RUSH), who's also taken a liking to him. But as the leaves on the boy's legs start to fall off, it's obvious something is happening to him and his future with his new family.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
While two incidents really aren't enough to signal a trend, one couldn't be faulted for noticing that the second half of 2012 is seemingly becoming the season of turning imaginary people into real-life, flesh and blood humans. Now, before anyone starts to question my sanity, let me clarify that I'm referring to what's been happening in the movies.

First, we had Paul Dano in "Ruby Sparks" playing a novelist who somehow but unintentionally conjures up a real representation of a literary creation who previously only existed on typewritten paper. She served as his girlfriend and he discovered the benefits and problems of being able to control her actions by what he typed about her.

Now, less than a month later, we have another miracle creation flick hitting the big screen in the form of "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." In this live action drama from the folks at Disney, Cameron 'CJ' Adams plays the title character who unexpectedly arrives -- literally and metaphorically -- like some sort of human crop. That's after the married characters played by Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton bury a wish list of sorts with an imagined array of accomplishments, characteristics and behaviors about the child they now recognize they'll never have via the old birds and bees route.

Nearly faster than one can exclaim "Audrey II!" a boy emerges from the ground and immediately views the Greens as his parents (thankfully rather than as his next meal). At the same time, they quickly "adopt" him despite his unusual arrival, not to mention the plant leaves that stem out from his legs and the fact that he occasionally stops everything to spread his arms and take in the radiant warmth of the sun (apparently he's partial to photokinesis).

And so begins their story together in this pleasant but somewhat odd fairy tale that I've still yet to figure out despite it now being more than a week since I saw the film at our preview press screening. Written and directed by Peter Hedges, the majority of the story is told in flashback as the married couple attempts to convince an adoption center official (Shohreh Aghdashloo) that their time spent with Timothy clearly prepped them for taking on a more permanent juvenile charge.

That's an unnecessary framing device that the filmmaker doesn't do much with other than occasionally popping back and forth to it, thus breaking up the otherwise meager narrative flow. In short, they must contend with having a child who's "different," as well as the reaction from others about that and the boy's occasional affect on them.

In that regard, it's a tale about keeping one's chin held high, be that from the boy who doesn't take offense to what anyone does or says and just keeps moving forward, unafraid and never hesitant to try something new. His parents must also bite their tongues on more than one occasion, be that in observing the behavior of Cindy's sister (Rosemarie DeWitt), who's always bragging about her kids, and mean boss (Dianne Wiest); Jim's judgmental and emotionally estranged dad (David Morse), not to mention his factory boss (Ron Livingston) who's also a mean sort; and the soccer coach (Common) who refuses to play their kid.

In fact, for a tale about a kid who's different, the parents end up getting bullied far more than he does. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's distracted by and clearly smitten with a slightly older girl (Odeya Rush) who appreciates that he isn't like the other kids. The latter adds some sweet and occasionally bittersweet elements to the proceedings that otherwise don't really amount to much.

And since the film isn't really designed for kids -- despite the majority of its story being dominated by one -- it's a bit disappointing that Hedges didn't push the envelope a bit more. I'm not talking about content that would have warranted a higher rating than PG. Instead, it would have been interesting to have explored the spooky and/or humorous aspects of this tale and its related elements since, after all, it has inklings of both qualities written all over it that are otherwise barely touched upon. The performances are good but pretty much forgettable as presented in a sort of fairy tale fashion where realism isn't an absolute necessity.

While it's refreshing to see a live-action movie about a kid that doesn't feature the usual cinematic array of scatological humor, zany behavior and such, the film feels like it was harvested before it was fully ripe and ready to be picked for our pleasure. Decent but not much more, "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed July 18, 2012 / Posted August 15, 2012


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