When I was a kid I was always drawn to stories with fantasy elements, like Harvey, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, On Borrowed Time and Death Takes a Holiday. Introducing unexplainable or mystical elements into a real-world setting is hard to resist, when it’s done right. If I had a 10-to-12-year-old child, I would take them to see The Odd Life of Timothy Green, because it traffics in that kind of everyday fantasy and plays it with sincerity. If it whets a young person’s appetite to see more of this kind of storytelling, that’s great. I’m only sorry it isn’t a better movie.
Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton play a loving couple who want a baby more than anything but haven’t had any luck. One night they write down all the qualities they would want their child to possess, put the slips of paper in a wooden box, and bury it in their back yard. That night, a mysterious rainstorm drenches their lawn and a boy grows out of the soil. He introduces himself as Timothy, their son.
I won’t reveal more of the story, or its various subplots. Suffice it to say that Timothy isn’t like other kids, and the parents have a hard time explaining his sudden arrival. But he does bring them great happiness, and even finds a soul mate: a girl who, like him, has secrets.
Peter Hedges, who wrote What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, About a Boy, and Dan in Real Life (which he also directed), adapted this screenplay from a story by producer Ahmet Zappa. The stars are quite good, and young CJ Adams is perfect as young Timothy. The supporting cast includes such capable costars as David Morse, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ron Livingston, Dianne Wiest, M. Emmet Walsh, and Lois Smith, but their roles are mostly one-dimensional caricatures, and each sideline story weakens and diminishes the film as a whole.
It seems as if Zappa had a good premise, but neither he nor Hedges could expand upon it without resorting to cliché. A 10-to-12-year-old might not feel the same way, until they see a better fantasy. Until then, I suppose The Odd Life of Timothy Green will just have to do.