Oh, the bad jokes to be inspired by The Odd Life of Timothy Green, matching this wilted story of a boy born as a plant and raised as a community's savior.
The word "sappy" comes to mind, constantly. So often that I wanted to make like a tree and leaf. Frankly I'm stumped, wondering exactly who the audience is for such a drab slab of saccharine uplift. If little Timmy falls in a forest and no one is in the theater to notice, will he make a sound?
Writer-director Peter Hedges — not a pun — is a ruthless manipulator of shallow emotion, entombing this far-fetched fantasy in hoary cliches. He will make you cry or characters will die trying. The Odd Life of Timothy Green is rooted in serious family issues — infertility, adoption, helicopter parenting — yet operates in a head-slapping netherworld where people don't question the sudden arrival of a child, or freshly dug backyard dirt when someone disappears.
The parents in question are Jim and Cindy Green (Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Garner), a nice couple heartbroken by their inability to have a baby. Working through grief, they begin writing down the qualities their child would have, burying the notes in a wooden box. The next morning, they awaken to find Timothy (Cameron "CJ" Adams), a sweet-faced kid with leaves sprouting from his shins.
Jim and Cindy unofficially adopt Timothy, enrolling him in school where he can be bullied and signing him up for soccer where he can fail. Those leg-leaves have a "magical" quality that didn't work for Eddie Murphy, either. Hedges regularly offers pep talks for parents although Timothy is irrepressibly chipper, occasionally pausing for sun salutes, arms spread like a mini-messiah, which of course he is.
Not only does Timothy rescue Jim and Cindy from a childless existence. He also does his part to save the local pencil factory from closing, make an old man's final days enjoyable and befriend a misfit (Odeya Rush) with untapped artistic talents. Timothy is a curious case, an agent of change in a movie seldom straying from the expected.
Everyone gets someone to give comeuppance in Hedges' screenplay, based on a story by Ahmet Zappa (yes, Frank's other son). Jim has issues with his father (David Morse) and differences with his boss (Ron Livingston) at the pencil factory, each spilling over to the soccer field, and Cindy suffers her overachieving sister (Rosemarie DeWitt). A green message gets shoehorned in, and everyone is a nicer person (or plant) at the fadeout.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green wants the same for you; to walk out the theater as a better person, ready to be different yet thrive, spreading the love like oak branches. The movie wants you to think about your place in the world. All I could think of was fertilizer.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.