The Odd Life of Timothy Green

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Laura Clifford 
The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Robin Clifford 

Jim (Joel Edgerton, "Warrior") and Cindy Green (Jennifer Garner, TV's 'Alias') both make their living from their small town's principal industry, the Stanleyville Pencil Company, each tyrannized by a member of the owning Crudstaff family. They desperately want a child, but have just found out they cannot conceive their own.  In an attempt to lighten their mood, Jim begins writing down all the characteristics a kid as great as theirs would have and buries them in a box in his wife's vegetable garden.  Jim's seed will sprout into "The Odd Life of Timothy Green."

Laura:
Just what drew writer/director Peter Hedges ("Pieces of April," "Dan in Real Life") to this ill-conceived idea? The story might be credited to Ahmet Zappa, but clearly it springs from the Scandinavian children's story "Otesánek," which was made into the comically nightmarish "Little Otik" by Czech stop motion animator Jan Svankmajer in 2000. A fable which was also known as 'Greedy Guts' seems a long shot for a wholesome Disneyfied film about tolerance and parenting and the end result is just plain weird, a movie playing to a really specialized demographic.  These are people who drink lots of glasses of milk and have no vices except for vanity, intellectual theft and oneupmanship.

The story is bookended by Jim and Cindy's appointment with U.S. Adoption Services where they inform Evette Onat (Shohreh Aghdashloo, "House of Sand and Fog") that they will be using their time to relate a tale they think illustrates their parenthood potential.

With rumors flying that the plant (nyuk-nyuk) where Jim works may be closing, it seems unlikely that Cindy could earn a living giving tours of Stanleyville's little pencil museum, but there she is, dressed like a 1940's school marm, keeping out of the way of town matriarch Bernice Crudstaff (Dianne Wiest, "Edward Scissorhands").  She's devastated by their no baby verdict, but Jim has her cheering on her imaginary kid on the couch hours later.  That night, during a storm, Jim hears a noise.  Cindy finds a mud-covered nine year-old in their spare bedroom.  He says he is Timothy Green (CJ Adams, " Dan in Real Life").  Jim finds a deep hole in the garden where he'd buried their box.  And oh yeah, Timothy has green leaves growing out of his calves.

The Greens are surprised the next morning by the big family gathering they'd forgotten they were hosting and Timothy is presented as a surprise, last minute adoption.  He bonds with Cindy's Uncle Bub (M. Emmet Walsh, "Blood Simple") and Aunt Mel (Lois Smith, "Twister"), but grandpa James Green, Sr. (David Morse, "The Hurt Locker," HBO's 'Treme') keeps bopping him off the head during a game of dodgeball.  Cindy's sister Brenda (Rosemarie DeWitt, "Your Sister's Sister," "The Watch") is passively aggressively derogatory in all remarks except those about her own two kids.

And so the Greens stand on their heads trying to make sure Timothy fits in.  They hide his leaves with socks, but his secret is discovered by Joni (Odeya Rush), a girl with one of her own.  They bond, but Timothy has another secret he hides even from her - his leaves are beginning to wither and fall.

This is just ludicrous stuff, despite the filmmakers' attempts at symbolism and larger meaning.  In a film that deals with conception, it is hard to imagine anyone in this movie ever having sex.  The nuclear Green family are all goody two-shoes.  The Crudstaffs (son Franklin, played by "Office Space's" Ron Livingston, is Jim's boss) are cardboard cut out villains.  The film's climax rests on a factory-saving innovation, a new pencil made of leaves(!) and when Franklin tries to take credit, Timothy shares his oddity with the whole town to prove where his dad got the inspiration.  To which Bernice declares 'If he can have a leaf on his ankle, we can make a pencil of leaves.'  I hereby nominate this for the single stupidest line of dialogue of 2012 (and spoken by an Oscar winner at that).

There is one, and only one good scene in the movie.  When Brenda puts Cindy on the spot at a family musical recital, Timothy backs up his mom's lie about his instrumental abilities with a clear talent to percussion.  Mom and dad pick up his beat for an impromptu family performance of War's 'Low Rider.'  Otherwise, "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is too odd indeed.  What's next?  A G-rated Disney reimagining of "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale?"

C-

Robin:
Robin did not see this film.
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