The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Growing Up Green

Real-life mom Jennifer Garner seems to have trouble having babies of her own in the movies, always looking for alternative options.  In 2007, she convincingly played a woman looking to adopt a child in Juno and now she takes an alternative approach: growing a child in the garden.  The Odd Life of Timothy Green starts off well with that original idea, but unfortunately, it fails to really go anywhere from there.

Garner’s Cindy Green and her husband Jim have always wanted kids of their own, but after trying for years and being told by the doctor that it is impossible, they have to face the fact that it is time to give up.  “But our kid would never give up,” Jim declares, leading to a wine-fueled night of writing down traits that their kid would possess.  They write all of their ideas down on pieces of paper, put them in a box, and bury it in garden.  After what turns out to be a magical rain storm, Jim and Cindy find a muddy little boy running around their house who calls himself Timothy, complete with leaves growing out of his legs.  It soon becomes clear that Timothy is not a runaway, but that he actually is their imagined kid brought to life.

Jennifer Garner in The Odd Life of Timothy GreenAfter a couple of questions from friends and family as to where Timothy had come from, the mystery is quickly forgotten and everyone just accepts Timothy as Jim and Cindy’s little boy.  They know that he’s different, though, especially in the way that he stops and looks up to the sun with his arms spread, as if he were absorbing its energy or something.  As the year goes on, Jim and Cindy begin to notice that everything they wrote down and buried in that box is coming true, including a climactic scene that proves you should be careful what you wish for.

Having a child literally grow in the garden is an original idea, but unfortunately the filmmakers take that original idea and wrap it in an unoriginal package.  As such, the whole movie is clouded by a sense of “haven’t I seen this before?”  You have, and probably done in a much better way.

The movie is structured using flashbacks.  Jim and Cindy are being interviewed at an adoption agency and explaining why under “experience” on their application, they wrote only “Timothy.”  Had the movie just opened with this and then let the flashback speak for itself using a minimal amount of voiceover narration, it would have been fine.  But the movie keeps coming back to the adoption agency, which does nothing but stop the story in its tracks.  Even the woman interviewing them orders them to get back to the story at one point.  If only writer/director Peter Hedges would have taken the advice that he himself wrote.

The movie also has some blatant continuity errors that stand out, like when two characters travel by bicycle seemingly on the exact same path that two others had traveled by car earlier in the movie, only to see the buildings they go by pass in a different order.   There’s also the scene in which we learn that Timothy cannot swim, only to have him treading water with ease a moment later.

Despite its faults, the movie is not without its moments of charm.  With the movie taking place in the town of Stanleyville, the pencil capitol of the world, calling the local soccer team the “Erasers” is a nice touch, especially when we learn they have to go up against teams like the “Bone Crushers.”  Garner and Joel Edgerton, as Jim, are very good and believable together, and I liked the relationship between Timothy and his love gal-pal Joni.  Although sometimes as awkward as the character he is portraying, CJ Adams does have some good individual moments as well, particularly in his brief encounters with his Uncle Bub.

These charming pieces cannot quite overcome the underwhelming whole, however, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green falls short of being the kind of family movie that it strives to be.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is rated PG for “mild thematic elements and brief language.”  There’s nothing really objectionable here.  This movie is designed for all ages.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Odd Life of Timothy Green.