Here’s one you may not have heard before: the Greens are a married couple (played by Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) grieving over their inability to conceive. One night, they comfort one another by writing down everything they’d want in a perfect child on individual pieces of paper, placing them in a box and burying it in their backyard. Suddenly, a thunderstorm magically appears only over the Green’s house. Like a newly grown weed, a boy (played by CJ Adams) sprouts out of the ground, with leaves on his legs proof of his backyard origin. The Greens, desperate to become parents, name him “Timothy” and try to pass the child off as their own.
The whimsy doesn’t stop there, as the Greens live in a town where pencils are the number one export; this provides viewers with multiple sequences of how pencils are factory made, the kind of scenes you’ll remember from the rare episodes of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” when Mr. Rogers would leave his house. There’s also a dotty, unkind pencil museum manager, played by Diane Wiest as a grouchy old woman with huge glasses. There’s also a silly, half-way cringe worthy scene where the Green family try to show off in public by performing an acapella version of “Low Rider” by WAR.
I wanted to like this film, as it’s an out-in-the-open, pro-adoption fable. You’d expect Timothy’s leafy origins and the many scenes of nature would be leading to an environmentalist metaphor but truly, the complexities of adoption is the film’s core focus. Timothy may be a strange miracle (-gro) child but the way the Green’s raise him, warning him that others may think he’s different and burden him with questions, is in line with what a parent might tell their newly adopted son.
One might wonder whom this film is for, as it begins on such a sad note, and seems geared more for parents than their children. The fantasy angle is subdued, as Timothy sheds a leg leaf every once in a while and strikes a Christ-like pose in the sun to restore his energy but otherwise has no Powder-like powers.
It takes a big leap of faith to warm up to a movie like this, which is similar in some ways to “Simon Birch” with its take-it-or-leave-it whimsy. It helps enormously that Timothy Green is such an appealing child and that Adams doesn’t overplay him. Garner is really wonderful here, conveying a mother who is both nurturing and overreaching in her good intentions. Edgerton, last seen in the remake of The Thing, does his best to keep up with Garner but he’s not right for the role and lacks chemistry with his co-stars.
This is the kind of mild, pleasant and sweet family drama that will appeal to a limited but appreciative audience. Parents who are pondering adopting, in the process of adoption, or planning to inform their children about the dynamics of bringing a new child into their home may want to share this movie.
As a message movie for families who adopt, it’s unquestionably valuable but as entertainment, it’s too gentle to leave an impression. I’ll admit that the love story between Timothy and the town’s wild child touched me and that the final scene left a lump firmly in my throat. Yet, I found much of this forced, not to mention ridiculous and not for anyone who considers themselves even a little cynical.
While full of warmth and good intentions, it’s not bad or “odd” as much as it’s just plain weird.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Rated PG / 125 Min.