The Odd Life of Timothy Green

the odd life of timothy green
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Director: Peter Hedges
Cert: G
Genre: Family
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Dianne Wiest, CJ Adams, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, Common, Odeya Rush
Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins

Arriving some eight months (!) after its US release, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is every bit as eccentric as its unwieldy title.

Based on a tall tale by Ahmet Zappa (son of Frank), this contemporary reworking of Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina gifts a smiley, leaf-legged pre-adolescent to childless couple Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim (Joel Edgerton).

Timothy (CJ Adams) turns out to be as naive and unaffected as one might expect from a kid who sprung up in the garden overnight. His surprised foster parents are thrilled with their new charge and the youngster soon charms kinder relatives such as Uncle Bub (M Emmet Walsh) and Auntie Mel (Lois Smith).

Though something of a klutz at school, the horticultural boy wonder also befriends cute girl Joni (the impressive Odeya Rush) and tries valiantly as the water boy for Coach Cal’s (Common) soccer team.


But will he ever bring a smile to the sterner faces of Dianne Wiest, a local pencil magnate, flinty aunt Rosemarie DeWitt or grumpy grandpa David Morse? And will Jim and Cindy notice that their unlikely adoptee is slowly losing his leaves?

Peter Hedges ( Dan in Real Life , What's Eating Gilbert Grape? ) directs this sweet and often poignant Disney fable with mixed results. A very fine and starry cast can't quite paper over the cracks in a project that appears to have lost vital organs in the editing suite. The central enchanted premise – Timothy loses a leaf every time he fulfils one of his parents' wishes – gets crowded out by too many subplots and characters. People appear and disappear as if through a revolving door. Morse's appearances are so perfunctory one suspects he wandered on to the set by accident. Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda is wasted as a bit-part botanist.

Even employing such impeccable genre logic as "a wizard did it", The Odd Life of Timothy Green 's brand of magic realism fails to hold water. Does no one in this idealised American small town think of Austrian basements when a strange child appears in their borough? And why do the doting parents – one of whom is lovely, soft Jennifer Garner – suddenly turn into a hypercompetitive tiger mom and soccer dad?

These and other important questions go unanswered, but you’ll end up sobbing into your popcorn just the same. Damn.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic