When Odd is too uneven

Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green needs deeper roots.

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In The Odd Life of Timothy Green, wholesome couple Cindy and Jim Green (played by Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) are so distraught over their inability to bear a child, they deal with their grief by collaborating to write down all of the traits of their ideal son, whom they name “Timothy.” At the end of that cathartic exercise, they gather up the slips of paper, place them in a wooden box, and bury the box in their front garden. After an intense rainstorm later that night, an adolescent emerges from the soil, the Green’s wishes made incarnate. This is Timothy, a 10-year-old boy who bears a peculiar trait that speaks to his remarkable origins: green leaves are sprouting from his shins.

With charming matter-of-factness, he lets Cindy and Jim know they are his mom and dad. Their wish having come true, the couple gets a quick introduction to the rigors and rewards of parenting — like taking Timothy to school, defending him from bullies of all ages and pestering Timothy’s soccer coach to give him more playing time. The Greens are protective, and understandably so — this is the child they’ve longed for, a child born of their dreams when all hope seemed lost, and they’re going to do everything they can for him.

There’s plenty that doesn’t make sense in Odd Life — like how a boy who arrives out of the blue (or the ground, in this case) can be so easily enrolled in school and how his extended family doesn’t exhibit more than a passing curiosity at his sudden appearance. These incongruities aside, the more perplexing aspects of the film involve pinning down what it’s trying to say or what it’s trying to make the audience feel.

Is this a careful-what-you-wish-for morality tale about the distance between the dreams and realities of parenthood? If so, it doesn’t ring true, as the Greens never betray any misconceptions about the challenges of being a mother and father nor do they exhibit selfish motivations. If it’s about accepting people who are different, the movie could do better than its weak, cloying subplot involving the town’s pencil factory, one that segues into Timothy’s big reveal in front of the townsfolk.

As Timothy, CJ Adams is very appealing, radiating sincerity, kindness and innocence The arch of his brow and smiling eyes convey his precocious nature, something to be expected for someone who’s aware of his origins and his purpose. But that purpose, when revealed, doesn’t have the impact it should because it hasn’t been adequately developed and doesn’t follow from what preceded it. Instead of a dramatic, coherent storyline that feels right, we get lazy storytelling that just wants to push our buttons.

Odd Life establishes an interesting, fantastical premise, but fails to build upon it. The movie keeps what could have been some of its most fruitful parts — like Timothy’s soul-bearing meetings with a neighborhood girl — too much of a secret. Besides the title character, the best thing going for the film is its quaint, small-town setting, sweet humor and the warm, autumnal colors of the production design. The pretty images are nice to look at, but The Odd Life of Timothy Green misses the opportunity to be something richer.

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