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The Odd Life Of Timothy Green Review: The Meanest Movie of the Year

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | August 17, 2012 | Comments ()


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Full Disclosure: I didn't know anything about The Odd Life of Timothy Green going into it. In fact, I'd seen only one trailer, and I honestly thought it was a creepy, quirky horror, Pet Semetary-style film about a kid grown in the garden that wreaked havoc on a quiet community. I was initially taken aback by the number of kids in the screening I attended, and even then, it took me a few minutes to realize it was a young adult movie. Based on the large crowd, I'm also assuming that it's based on a celebrated kid's book (in fact, I saw Ahmet Zappa's name in the credits, so without looking it up, I'll attribute it to him).

I don't review kids' films, typically, and that's particularly so for live-action kid's films, and I wouldn't have reviewed this one had I known in advance. There's a very simple reason for that: I'm incapable of being objective. I love kids. Not just my own, but in general. Like, adore them. I have an even softer spot for those precocious kids so popular in movies these days. They make my heart swim. Seeing a cute kid go through the experiences and conflict inherent in even the most benign kid's film is emotionally difficult for me. When it comes to kids, my emotions are very heightened, so the death of a kid? It's too much. But when it's a cute, precocious kid? It's devastating. The last time I dared watch a film like that was Bridge to Terabithia, and it wrecked me for hours.

When I was looking up movie times for the film on my little iPhone app, I did notice that The Odd Life of Timothy Green was currently sitting at 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Given my inability to be objective, you'd be better off trusting that score. I mean, single, childless white old guys are clearly a better judge of this movie than I. They're less inclined to allow touching moments and rousing music cloud their judgement. They're probably also immune to such facile thoughts as, "Wow, this obviously caring and affectionate celebrity mother has made a really sweet film about the wonderment of life that her kids will be able to truly enjoy and appreciate." Those critics are also likely not likely to allow their emotions be manipulated by anyone other than Christopher Nolan or Joss Whedon, and any movie without a big dose of wry humor is clearly not going to appeal to them. The Odd Life of Timothy Green is earnest and straightforward, and it has Disney's slickly sweet imprimatur all over it. Yuck, right?

They're probably not suckers for magical realism like I am, either. It's a preposterous premise, after all: A husband (Joel Edgerton) and wife (Jennifer Garner) devastated by the news that they will never be able to have children of their own spend one night before moving on with their lives dreaming up all the qualities they might want in a child. They write them down on tiny pieces of paper, put them in a box, and plant them in a garden. The next morning, that child magically appears in their bed, and he's just as they had imagined. It's a miracle of sorts. I'm dumb enough to see a miracle at work in all kids -- you insert something in her something and boom! nine months later, there's a life living in your home? -- so silly me, I just went with the premise.

Of course, there's a catch. The kid has leaves on his legs (eye roll, right?), which he keeps covered with long socks. Unfortunately, every time he touches the life of someone else -- be it a repressed family member (David Morse), a dying grandfather, a shrewish old lady (Diane Wiest), an uptight aunt (Rosemarie Dewitt) or another child afraid of her own differences (Odeya Rush) -- he loses a leaf. We know, too, from the outset -- because the parents, in an adoption agency in the present day, speak of Timothy Green in the past tense -- that Timothy will die, or be taken away, or returned to the garden from which he grew. I'm sure that the more objective critics will note the inherent manipulation in such a device, noting that those touching moments littered throughout the film are all the more powerful because we know the ultimate fate of Timothy Green. I'm sure those critics, too, think the whole thing kind of creepy.

They're probably right.

When I was a kid, I went and saw My Girl at the movie theater. I saw it with a friend of mine, who brought his sister, and he and I sat a chair apart in the theater, like you do when you're 15-year-old dudes attending a movie together. I remember when the MacCauley Culkin character died that the entire theater was wracked with sobs. I mean, some of those soft-hearted simpletons were in hysterics. It was so awkward for my friend and I hearing all those girly-girls around us bawling, and we were so overcome by the tension, that we just burst into laughter. We giggled for a good ten minutes as the people around us blew their noses and wiped away the tears. We were above that sort of blatant manipulation.

I'll say this much about my experience with The Odd Life of Timothy Green, however: I'm not nearly as cool as I was when I was 15. When all those people around me started sniffling and wiping away tears, I didn't laugh this time. I guess when it comes to feel-good, tear-jerking kid's movies, I'm just one of those simple, soft-hearted middle Americans. So, don't mind me. Stick with those other critics who don't allow heartfelt fairy tales mixed with a healthy dose of sweetness infect their tear ducts.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • That Guy...

    I laughed at the end... Cause he dies and that shit is funny

  • :D

    I always hated bullshyt sappy endings where everything magically works out too, I turn movies off before they end because of garbage like that.

  • Calmdownholyfack

    Plant kid dies at the end of a movie, BFD.. in a survival of the fittest scenario, the kids who freaked out about this movie would die and never reproduce.Too bad we dont live like that.

  • When I see that header picture the only thing that comes to mind is "It's called...The Aristocrats!"

  • You're in Agent Bedhead territory, son. We don't take kindly to change around here.

  • Review translation: If you don't like this movie, you are soulless. And probably fat.

  • dahlia6

    Dude, fat people have souls. You're thinking of gingers.

  • **I AM** NotTheOne

    No Sir. I will not be drawn in. I love kids too. No...let me correct that. I love MY kid. I tolerate everyone else's kids. One thing I love about my kid is that she hates mushy, sappy, manipulative, feel-good movies where a magical character shows up to save everyone from themselves with trite homespun Dr. Phil-type platitudes.
    Actually, now that I think of it, she would enjoy ripping this movie to shreds. And school doesn't start for another couple of weeks.
    Maybe we'll give it a shot.

  • Melanie

    "...never be able to have children OF THEIR OWN." seriously? Let's be completely asinine shall we.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Erm...I am not trusting Dustin on this. For one thing, it doesn't come across as a kids movie from the commercials. The other thing that comes across from the commercials? Jennifer Garner's forced happiness & merriment. The header pic sums it up.

  • Nadine

    I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. I am just the WORST. Shit, I cried, genuinely cried through the last like, forty entire minutes of Dark Knight Rises, mainly thanks to Michael Caine and his damn wonderfulness.

    SO, I will avoid this, lest I just up and die of Emotions.

  • TDKR wrecked me with that ending. I'm still trying to get over Snape's death. That will haunt me for the rest of my days.

  • geebus- Its a kids movie? wow. well blame the marketers, because I have seen the trailers for this and they make me soo-o mad. All I keep thinking is: "What kind of asshole writes a movie about two "wonderful" people who can't have children, magically having children? Why would you ever waste money producing writing or acting in/on such a tragically delusional premise? Do you like rubbing moronic fantasies in the faces of all those little would be mommies desperately and hopefully sitting in fertility clinic waiting rooms, Jennifer Gardner? " Assholes". Yep that is what I thought- "assholes-everyone in, associated with, funding,and green lighting this damn movie and its absurd premise."

    I'd probably hate Pinocchio too, if the cat and the cricket weren't so damn cute.

  • Tennaners

    Is there something about Jennifer Garner that evokes barrenness? Because this AND Juno make for a really odd typecasting.

  • anikitty

    Never. Never ever ever. It could only be worse if his dog dies as well.

  • DenG

    I'm an almost 60-year-old female who has never felt the urge or desire to have children. Probably couldn't anyway since I didn't use birth control during my brief marriage to the Pentecostal Holiness humanoid. I have wondered how it might feel to be a parent, but not for long because I am grateful that I'm not a parent. Would have been a disaster all the way around, I think.

  • KatSings

    Every time I see a trailer for this, I think of Jack. And how fucking much I hated that movie. For reasons.

  • ,

    Best review ever.

    Who wrote this?

    *scrolls up ...*

    Well, I'll be motherfucked. "Scathing and bitchy," my ass.

  • Abbey Road

    I watched the trailer for this on my phone one night knowing nothing about it & was caught COMPLETELY off guard & was bawling like a baby about 1 min in. Now, I was about two years into an infertility deal at the time, & had just seen Warrior, so sweet-sad-Joel-Edgerton-as-husband-&-dad also didn't help. So. All this to say, I won't judge.

  • MAN! Why did you do this to me? I started tearing up just reading the words "Bridge To Terabithia." I haven't even seen the movie, and I've only read the book once. 25 years ago at age 10. Just the mention of it still wrecks me.

  • I'm right there with you. I read it once because a guy I had a crush on liked the book (we were both 10). I was wrecked and I 'buried the book in the backyard,' as me and my sister like to say.

    I saw it at a thrift store and bought it. Now it just sits on my shelf. Waiting.

  • competitivenonfiction

    I totally forgot the premise of Bridge to Terabithia and re-read it just before the movie came out. I was gasping for air I cried so hard. I'm pretty sure that as a kid I made some sort of a diorama for it for a novel study, and though I know it was upsetting to me then, as an adult it was far worse.

  • bleujayone

    This reminded me of an obscure television show I saw ages ago. I very vaguely remember watching an anthology sci-fi horror TV series back in the 1970's. The name of the show escapes me but I do remember the story. Perhaps one of you has a better memory of things like that than I do.

    This particular episode was about a married couple of scientists who are told they couldn't have children. Then suddenly they had a son who looked to be about eight years old. One assumes they adopted a child. They went around happily doing things that families do- except they kept getting strange looks from everyone. Some time later their boy got sick and wouldn't move and we the audience finally got to see him as he really was- a robot. But being 1970's television, he looked like a rolling photocopier with Christmas lights glued all over him. The "parents" did all they could, but they couldn't fix him and he promptly smoked like a Studebaker and "died". They were so distraught that they couldn't even keep an artificial child, they decided the only way they could continue would be to make robot bodies for themselves and dump their brains into them minus the emotions and the want to be parents.

    I understand that they wanted to show a metaphor of people who couldn't have or lost children. I also understand the trouble some of us us have at trying to become parents. I'm just not sure watching them go mad first by building a pet toaster as their "child" and then purging their wounded humanity by becoming a hi-tech vending machine and pinball game when that route failed was the way to go.

  • Palaeologos

    Throwing something out there: it might have been "Night Gallery".

  • $27019454

    Yes. Fucking Night Gallery. Ghaaa. That show! It also bears some small resemblance to a Ray Bradbury short story that made me cry and scared the shit out of me simultaneously. Why did I come back to this review? Dustin! I blame you.

  • ExUSA

    This movie sounds similar in theme (tear-jerking-yet-oddly-feel-good) as an old Cary Grant/Irene Dunne movie called Penny Serenade. It's about a childless couple, who miraculously have a child. If you watch it, have an entire box of tissues on hand.

  • BobbFrapples

    My luck, they'll play this on my next cross country flight. I was ambushed by Bridge to Terabithia on one such flight and I had to squeeze my fists until my knuckles hurt to keep from sobbing all over the stranger in the seat next to me.

  • $27019454

    Honestly, that's inhumane that they showed that movie. Diabolical, really. (They played Eat Pray Barf on my Christmas flight a few years back and as tortuous as that was, I'm not sure I'd have traded places with you.)

  • Groundloop

    Jiminy Cheesemass Rowles! SPOILER ALERT!!

    "I remember when the MacCauley Culkin character died..."

  • Nope, sorry, under spoiler ettiquette this is well past the spoiler period for this film. No foul.

  • Groundloop

    I was going for a parody of the horribly offended/angry commenter. I see now my effort has fallen short. In future I'll be sure to include random capitalization, abbreviation, misspellings, and possibly the threat of physical harm.

  • Adrien

    At least Dustin didn't spoil the ending to Bridge to Terabithia where Anna Sophia Robb character fell into the creek and died.

  • Romeo Cranberry

    i see what you did there

  • Correct. You're not really channeling the morally outraged commentor unless there's a death threat involved. Oh, and see if you can make a Hitler comparison, too.

  • BWeaves

    So, Timothy Green is a plant. When he loses his leaves, he dies. Meh.

    I guess this means that in order for Timothy to live a long life, he has to be a raging asshole.

  • Jezzer

    So this movie is going to basically encourage horrible children to stay horrible and grow up to be douchebags? Way to go, Jennifer Garner.

  • XiuFetish

    So THAT explains the current GOP leadership...

  • Wembley

    Didn't they do this movie with Eddie Murphy? Or was it Martin Lawrence? I'm not saying they look alike, but career wise...

  • BWeaves

    OK Dustin, if you want a completely different take on this same storyline, rent "Little Otik." It has subtitles, but I don't think you'll mind. It's a nice little horror story about a childless couple. The husband digs up a tree stump that kinda sorta looks like a baby if you squint through your nose. The wife goes bonkers and starts treating the tree stump like a child. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER It comes to life and eats everyone. The end. Nice stop motion animation on the tree stump.

  • omg, this movie.

  • Guest

    Svankmajer!

  • Anne At Large

    THANK YOU. All I could think of when I saw the preview for this was "It's been done, and this does not look nearly as scary".

  • Samantha Klein

    OHMYGOD I saw that once. It was playing in a restaurant, if you can believe it. Thank you so much for providing me with the name of it and reminding me of it, so that I may have nightmares tonight.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    That sounds wonderful! Definitely more my style than this movie.

  • branded_redux

    Time to revisit an oldie but a goodie SRL?

    http://www.pajiba.com/seriousl...

  • $27019454

    I am all teared up reading thru the comments of this because *sob* it's the OLD comments system. Boohoohoooooooo. ;{

  • GunNut2600

    A-fucking-men. I can't stand this new setup.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I like being able to reply directly to someone.

  • Jezzer

    I like people being able to anonymously downvote things I say, instead of telling me they disagree, and why.

    Oh no, wait. I mean "loathe."

  • NateMan

    And this is just what I expected for this movie, and exactly why I won't ever, ever see it. I have no desire to blubber like a baby. Thanks for confirming it.

  • $27019454

    I don't like kids much...in general...but I ADORE my own kids. Another thing I adore is this review. Fuck you very much for the tightness in my chest and the tears in my eyes. My kids come home Friday from camp and I CAN'T WAIT to hug them.

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