Review • Fairy-tale story's grounded with strong performances.
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How much you enjoy and appreciate the comedy-drama "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" depends largely on your tolerance for magic. Since this movie begins with Sleeping Beauty's castle, the corporate icon of the Walt Disney Company, you can imagine the magic level is fairly high.
My tolerance isn't boundless, and too much explaining away unusual occurrences or brain-stretching leaps of logic by showing windblown leaves will test my patience. However, the magic applied by director Peter Hedges ("Dan in Real Life," "Pieces of April") is nicely tempered by some down-to-earth reactions from a strong cast.
The story is told in flashback by a couple, Jim and Cindy Green (Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner), to a hearing officer (Shohreh Aghdashloo) for a government adoption agency. "You're going to find it hard to believe," Cindy says by way of introduction.
The Greens then tell of the night, after their doctor has informed them that they will be unable to have a baby (in a montage reminiscent of the opening scenes of "Up"), when they pop open a bottle of wine and write down all the perfect attributes they would want in a child. They take those written notes, put them in a wooden box, and bury the box in Cindy's garden. One magical thunderstorm later, a mud-covered 10-year-old boy named Timothy (CJ Adams, a real charmer) shows up in their house and there's a hole in the garden.
Timothy is a perfectly normal kid, except he sprouts leaves on his shins and he tends to be phototropic habitually turning his face toward the sun and spreading his arms.
As the Greens introduce Timothy to the world, we learn of all the stresses in the couple's lives. They include Jim's issues with his stern father (David Morse), Cindy's dealings with her hyper-competitive super-mom sister (RoseMarie Dewitt), and the impending closure of the pencil factory where Jim works. It's not giving away too much in a movie like this to say that Timothy, just by his preternaturally good-hearted existence, comes to help solve all these problems.
Sure, the sap flows through "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" like a maple grove during tapping season, but Hedges (who wrote the screenplay, adapting a story by musician Ahmet Zappa) keeps it grounded, particularly with solid performances by Garner and Edgerton as well as a salty supporting turn by Dianne Wiest as the matriarch of the town's pencil factory. Hedges also creates some beautiful moments, like the colorful leaf sculptures Timothy and his crush Joni (Odeya Rush) create in the forest.
"The Odd Life of Timothy Green" gets a tad bittersweet in its finale, but it's Disney schmaltz of the highest order. By the end, the movie grows on you.
'The Odd Life of Timothy Green'
Magic brings a little boy into a childless couple's lives, in this charming comedy-drama.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Wednesday, Aug. 15.
Rating • PG for mild thematic elements and brief language.
Running time • 105 minutes.