Title: THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN
Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Peter Hedges
Screenwriter: Peter Hedges from Ahmet Zappa’s story
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Ron Livingston, Rosemarie DeWitt, Dianne Wiest, Odeya Rush, Common.
Screened at: Regal E-Walk, NYC, 8/9/12
Opens: August 15, 2012
“There’s something you ought to know about me,” says the title character, Timothy Green (Cameron “CJ” Adams). Yes, this Green kid is a ten-year-old, but other than his would-be parents, are there people in the audience at the edge of their seats to listen into the big secret? Could be. I don’t know how the small fry will react to this Disney production. Maybe only the target audience should be reviewing the picture. But it seems to me that this Hallmark Hall of Fame-type of comedy-tear-jerker may not go down any better on children than on the parents who drag them to the movie. CJ Adams is a fine young actor who carries the part well, for a kid who’s just about sixty pounds, four feet six inches high and I’d guess about eleven years old. The theme, though, is a cliché—that it’s OK to be different. Yet from the way this Timothy kid does everything wrong– for example can barely kick a soccer ball more than two inches without falling, yet makes a huge blooper when finally taken off the bench and put on the field—you’ve got to question whether different is good. He is invited to perform on a musical instrument right after the sister of his adoptive mother bragged about her child’s performance in a chamber music group but can do little other than tap a chime. His parents then take over at the concert to dance and sing to the child’s beat in the most embarrassment segment of the story.
Contrary to the view of those who might criticize how sanitary this PG picture turns out, it deals with matters that some parents would not want their 10-year-olds to hear. Death, for example. We not only see Timothy’s “uncle” in the hospital after suffering what looks like a heart attack, but see his dead body laid out for witnesses. We hear how Timothy’s adoptive parents “tried everything” to have a child but were told that there was no hope. “Mommy, mommy, what does she mean that she “tried everything”?
The story finds the depressed couple Jim Green (Joel Edgerton—wearing a large, dark-brown rug) and Cindy Green (Jennifer Garner) despairing so poignantly that they cannot have a biological baby that some in the audience will wonder whether she’ll pull a Yerma. Yerma, meaning “barren” in Spanish, is the woman created by Federico Garcia Lorca who kills her husband because he will not give her a child. The couple plant some notes in a box in their garden stating the attributes that their child would have and, voilà—on a dark and stormy night the ten-year-old appears in the bedroom full of dirt, a happy child who insists on calling the two adults Mom and Dad.
The entire story unfolds during a conference that Jim and Cindy have with Evette (Iranian-born Shohred Achdashloo), an official of an adoption agency who challenges the couple to prove they have the qualifications to adopt. They tell her the story, which she finds nutty but unrealistically believes—and for that matter nobody in the movie truly wonders whether this kid was either kidnapped or had run away, picked up and informally adopted up by Cindy and Jim.
In trying to prove that it’s OK to be different, writer-director Peter Hedges (“Dan in Real Life”) has Timothy bond with Joni (Odeya Rush), whose birthmark proves that she is likewise unusual, but she apparently does not have the same fantasy background as Timothy, whose leg sports green leaves that cannot be cut or removed in any way but which fall out, one by one, as their green color fades.
The story is populated by such colorful characters as Ron Livingston, terrifically funny as Peter Gibbons in Mike Judge’s “Office Space,” in the role of the boss of the Stanley pencil factory, which is on the brink of bankruptcy; M. Emmet Walsh, who laughs for the first time in years when listening to Timothy; Dianne Wiest as a witch of a woman who is Cindy’s boss in a pencil museum; and David Morse as Jim’s dad, a man who simply “wasn’t there” when Jim needed him. Common pops up as a soccer coach who gets so excited during a small fry game that you’d think he’s handling the NY Giants.
The photography is perfect as we’ve come to expect from Disney productions, and we do get to see how pencils are manufactured. Rated PG. 100 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – D
Acting – C+
Technical – A-
Overall – C