“The cinematic equivalent of Paul Daniels. Magical it may be, but is it enjoyable? Not a lot...”
Five years ago director Peter Hedges brought us Dan in Real Life, a well constructed and enjoyable piece of cinema. However he now returns with The Odd Life of Timothy Green, a picture aimed at somewhat of a younger audience, and a family drama that is like the cinematic equivalent of Paul Daniels. Magical it may be, but is it enjoyable? Not a lot.
Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) are a married couple that live a humble life in the small town of Stanleyville, North Carolina. They don't ask for much, but the one thing they desire is to one day have a baby together. However, their life is thrown into disarray when told by a fertility doctor that they unable to have children. Struggling to cope with the news, they decide to put it behind them by writing down all of their imaginary child's personality traits and bury them in the garden.
As a storm sweeps over their household that night, they awake to find that their box of wishes has magically turned into a real life boy, as the exact same child they had envisaged now exists, and goes by the name of Timothy (CJ Adams). Although ecstatic, Cindy and Jim have been suddenly forced into a life of parenting, and although their new son may not be all that he seems – with leaves growing from his ankles, for example - the experience of raising a child will prove invaluable for the happy couple.
The premise itself is intriguing and one that should appease the whole family, with magical, fantastical elements for the kids, and a poignant undercurrent for the older members of the audience. However despite having the potential to be a touching and enchanted tale, what transpires is a somewhat bland family drama. The opening act is enjoyable as we watch how Cindy and Jim react to this incredible surprise and how other members of the town adapt to this new, eccentric child – but the narrative loses its way after that, entering an unfortunate period of tedium.
There is just a lack of any threat in this film, as every children's fantasy must have an antagonist, and although Jim's boss is a bit of an arse, there isn't anyone who poses much danger to the overall plot. Unless you count the changing of the seasons as a baddie? But that's a bit weird. Talking of weird, I don't like Timothy Green. He's really annoying. There, I've said it.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is harmless and there aren't many concrete criticisms to be made as such, yet conversely, there aren't any outstanding positives either, as this is a film that quite frankly isn't memorable in the slightest. However what it can/does do is make you cry. It is evidently designed to do just that, and although it succeeds this doesn't make it okay. It's just emotionally - and bloody triumphantly – manipulative. Damn you, Hollywood.