Review 28: The Odd Life of Timothy Green (.5/5)

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Directed by Peter Hedges

Starring Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, Dianne West, Ron Livingston

Released on August 15, 2012

Running time: 1h 45m

Rated PG

Genre: Kids & Family, Comedy, Drama

As I sat back in my chair at my computer, I noticed that The Odd Life of Timothy Green was produced by Disney. I typed that into the notes I was taking on Microsoft Word, as I knew I was going to be using that little tidbit as a cause for complaint.

TOLoTG takes place in the city of Stanleyville (the state in which Stanleyville is located is never revealed), the “Pencil Capital of the World”. Um…yay? I’m not kidding. Stanleyville has a pencil factory, an actual pencil MUSEUM, their elementary school soccer team is called the Erasers, and pencils become an “important” part of the plot.

NIKO TATAPOULOS (Godzilla ’98): That’s a lot of fish pencils.

We open in an adoption center, where our two would-be parents, Jim (Joel Edgerton, who looks BORED out of his mind) and Cindy Green (Jennifer Garner, who’s still looking disheveled from costarring in Daredevil with Ben Affleck), who have a major problem with finishing each other’s sentences way too often. They have an appointment with the head of the USAS center, as they are trying to adopt a kid. However, when the interviewer notices that they have not filled out the section where they are supposed to describe why they would be good parents, the couple says that “there was not enough space”. Imagine saying that in a different context, like, if you’re explaining why you didn’t even answer one question on an important test. “There wasn’t enough space”. And Jim and Cindy actually think that this strategy will work on the US Adoption Services? That’s pretty weak. So, the interviewer, for some reason, allows Jim and Cindy to tell their story about the [disturbingly] odd life of a little boy named Timothy.

Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton are good actors, and I’ve seen them do well in other stuff. Garner tried her best to save Daredevil, and Edgerton did what he could with Exodus: Gods and Kings. Both are clearly trying their hardest in TOLoTG, but even the most talented actors cannot save a doomed project.

It turns out that everything involving Timothy is told in flashback. Jim works at the Stanleyville pencil factory and Cindy works at the Stanleyville pencil museum. We learn that despite Jim and Cindy’s best efforts, Cindy is as barren as most of the Gobi Desert. Heartbroken, the two return home. I will be honest and say that I legitimately felt sorry for this couple. Unfortunately, I would later regret making that statement. That night, Jim suggests to Cindy that they go through some sort of catharsis. They write down what their kid would have been like on sheets of paper, such as musical skills, honesty to a fault, and kicking the winning goal for the soccer team. When Jim and Cindy mention kicking the winning goal for the soccer team, they suddenly pause. They stare at the wall for a few seconds as the music builds, and then suddenly burst out in cheering. I suppose that this is supposed to show how “in tune” Jim and Cindy are, but…ugh. Oh, and Jim shouts “Touchdown!” Strange. “Touchdown” is an American football term, not a soccer term. Jim could have at least acted like a Latin American sportscaster. “¡Inserto Español babble-o here-o! ¡GOL! ¡GOL! ¡GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!” Jim and Cindy put the papers in a wooden box, and bury the box in the backyard, effectively burying their heartbreak. Jim and Cindy go to bed happy, having moved on with their lives, and having become much stronger as people and as husband and wife. I feel happy for this couple solving their understandable issue in a unique way.

I have one major question: Why not an orphanage? I’m sure there are many kids there that desperately want a family to be a part of.

Insert the intro from “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” by Bach as a freak storm shows up, and the ground where the box was buried is pushed upward and out. Jim and Cindy wake up to discover a dirty little boy (CJ Adams) who looks like he’s about nine or ten. The boy says that his name is Timothy, and he acts like Jim and Cindy have always been his parents. Okay, time to call the police and put out a missing child notification – …kidnapping works too. I’m surprised that not too many people consider that. One interesting fact: this kid has leaves growing out of his legs. Yes. He’s a kid who came from the garden and has leaves growing out of his legs that look even more fake than Green Lantern’s CGI mask. Jim and Cindy consult each other and they agree that Tim is meant for them. Well, God works in mysterious ways. But this is not one of them. Jim, Cindy, and Tim go to sleep.

During this scene, Cindy said that her mind was racing with questions for Tim. Well, why didn’t she ask Tim all of these questions? Tim seems emotionally stable. I’m sure he can handle being asked some questions.

I like the initial pro-family vibe, but I know that I should not count that chick before it hatches.

Oh, and a cut back to the present reveals that the USAS interviewer revealing that she’s heard crazier stories. Phew! I can SMELL the bullcrap from here!

Tim, who we learn cannot dress himself very well (at age 10? WOW), rises with the sun the next morning. Get it? It’s because he’s a plant! Cindy’s sister Brenda arrives, and she encounters Tim before reminding Cindy of some sort of family get-together that Jim and Cindy are unprepared for. This is not going to end well. Tim is too quick to say that he came from the garden, and Cindy forgets to realize that she may as well say that they adopted him. The family get-together goes surprisingly well, and barely anyone is fazed by the idea that Tim joined the family out of nowhere. Wow. Tim acts especially awkward when he asks three of his cousins, “So you all came from your mom’s tummy? What was that like?” Tim, who’s naivete is really getting on my nerves, later develops a “special bond” with his Uncle Bub, AKA Bubbles with this exchange.

BUB: Hello, young man.

TIMOTHY: Hello, old boy.

This Bub-Tim bond will be important in only one scene.

But then Jim’s dad arrives, and immediately gets off on the wrong foot when Tim addresses him as “Grandpa”, obviously thinking that Tim has a thing against the elderly. Things are made even worse when Jim’s dad, nicknamed Big Jim, starts a family game of dodgeball, and Tim doesn’t know how to play. So Tim turns around, faces the sun, and raises his arms. Oh, I get it! He’s a plant, and so he’s absorbing the sun! But this is made entirely pointless when Big Jim thwacks Tim with the ball upside the head. Insert The Price is Right loser horns here.

Oh, and during the sun-absorbing sequence, Tim is distracted by a young teenage girl named Joni (Odeya Rush). She is easily 15 (in real life as well as this movie), and, considering the music playing during this sequence, she is destined to be Tim’s love interest. Yes. Tim is probably ten or eleven, and Joni is 15. That’s…not normal, or okay. Do you have any idea how easily a teenage girl can take advantage of a boy on the verge of puberty? This cannot end well!

Another thing. Big Jim has as much of a grasp on dodgeball as Tommy Wiseau has on football.

Anyway, one jarring transition later, we see – wait, who is this guy? Is he some sort of plant expert or something? He’s entirely pointless, as he only shows up in one other scene! So the plant expert, in an attempt to analyze the leaves on Tim’s legs as allowed by Tim, Jim, and Cindy, attempts to cut off one of Tim’s leaves. Strangely, his scissors break. Dude! Tim’s leaves can break steel? That’s awesome! This kid could be a superhero! If DC and Marvel comics can create characters like Polka-Dot Man, Egg Fu, Matter-Eater Lad, Blue Snowman, Doll-Man, Captain Boomerang, Arm-Fall-Off-Boy, Sportsmaster, Ambush Bug, the Dummy, Danny the Street, the Fiddler, Red Bee, Weather Wizard, Vibe, Calendar Man, Extraño, Skate Man, Red Tornado, Rainbow Girl, Razorback, Dogwelder, the Clock King, and Color Kid, then Leaf Leg Boy should be – no, that’s just stupid.

In another jarring transition, Jim and Cindy send Tim to school (for the only time shown onscreen), having not consulted the administration (onscreen, anyway.). Wow. Cindy mentions the things put into Tim’s bulging backpack: notebooks, pencils, tissues, Band-Aids, an entire first aid kit, healthy snacks, treats, Graham crackers, a flashlight, batteries, and an extra pair of socks. But no lunch. How did Cindy overlook that little detail? Oh, and the Band-Aids and first aid kit? The school nurse is there for a reason! Unless the only things she has is a box of Band-Aids, a roll of dirty, used gauze, and a rusty saw.

We learn that Tim had an “art project” done on him by two other kids, with Joni coming by at the end to put the cherry on top. Wait, Joni goes to the same elementary school as Tim, but she’s 15 and already has boobs that would put Natalie Portman to shame? Bullhonky! So where are we supposed to like Joni?

So Jim and Cindy take Tim to the house of the bullies, and wouldn’t you know it? The father of Tim’s bullies is Jim’s boss, Franklin Crudstaff! Who would’ve thought it? Crudstaff is so evil that his last name is “Crudstaff”, his coffee mug says “The Boss” on it, his last name is “Crudstaff”, he will attempt to bring up pointless tension at the climax, and his last name is “Crudstaff”! Did I mention that his last name is “Crudstaff”? And, for some reason, the mother invites Tim to her son’s birthday party. And guess what? Jim and Cindy actually acquiesce! Even a cut back to the present shows that the USAS interviewer knows and is dumbfounded by how stupid of a decision that was!

Oh, and the movie ties itself back to pencils by saying that the factory is losing funding and will have to lay off some of its workers. Does Stanleyville seriously have no other way to pay its bills?

But hey! Now it’s time for the birthday party!

JIM: I thought it was time he learned to fight his own battles.

CINDY: We just forgot to ask if he could swim.

WOW. DAMN.

Anyway, we cut right to Tim on the diving board next to the Crudstaffs’ pool while wearing socks to cover up his leaves. Yes. Socks in a swimming pool. Tim is just standing there on the diving board, and is the only person (almost, but I’ll get to that in a second) at the party that is wearing swim trunks. But then Joni shows up, causing one of Tim’s stems to begin to grow. Way to throw prepubescent lust at us, TOLoTG! Uh, Tim? Staring is not the best strategy to win a chick’s heart. Uh, no. No. No! Stop jumping on the diving board trying to get her attention! Stop trying to execute the mating dance of the rafflesia flower! Stop! STOP! STOP! Oh, thank HEAVEN, he finally jumped into the pool. But Tim stays down there a little too long, and Joni jumps in after him. Joni tries to pull one of Tim’s socks off, and in response – nobody touches the leaves, beeyatch! – Tim kicks Joni in the face, which gives her a bloody nose.

We immediately cut to Tim being driven home, and he is instructed to, whenever he sees Joni coming,

JIM: … just run the other way.

Wait, what?

(Earlier) JIM: … fight his own battles.

(Now) JIM: … run the other way.

Make up your mind, man!

After a brief chase sequence, Joni corners Tim and shows him her Wisconsin-shaped grape juice stain on her shoulder. Okay, how does this make them alike? Joni has a birthmark, and Tim’s a literal abomination of nature! Oh, and Joni says she’s afraid to show her birthmark. Oh, come on! I have a birthmark on my foot, and I don’t care who knows about it!

And then, Joni and Tim sort of…hit it off. Ew. Okay, it was one thing for Tim to have a crush on Joni. I can relate. I once had a brief crush on someone four years older than me. But it is quite another thing for Joni to reciprocate those feelings. I don’t care that the actors have only a three year age difference, but it looks creepy when this chick has a crush on a boy half her size. She’s old enough to be his babysitter.

You know, a movie that stars Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton could have at least picked a hotter, more Hollywood actress to play the role of Joni. I can recommend two right now: Chloe Grace Moretz and Elle Fanning. Both are fantastic actresses and are absolutely gorgeous. I recently saw Moretz play a fantastic Carrie in Carrie, and Fanning did her best to save Maleficent, though the movie sucked.

We then get to the one scene featuring Uncle Bub and yes, yes, that’s right. Out, family. Only Tim can be with Bub in his final moments. We don’t care that Bub has known Jim, Cindy, and his own wife for most of his life. He’s known Tim for two days, and that’s enough for him to slip the nurse an extra $50 and kick everyone else out of the room. We don’t actually see Bub die, but we see Jim, Cindy, and Bub’s wife burst into the room with stressed expressions on their faces, and set Tim off to the side.

Jim and Cindy spontaneously sign Tim up for the soccer team known as the Erasers. Wow. The team is headed by Coach Cal (Common), who refers to himself in the third person. At tryouts, Tim, to say the least, does not do well. Instead of actually kicking the ball, he stumbles over it and falls to the ground. This looks incredibly forced. And, for some reason, Coach Cal lets Tim onto the team, because…Coach Cal likes losing? Okay. Of course Tim’s going to suck at first, but then, out of nowhere, be really good, completely tossing aside the need for practice. At home, Tim practices with Jim. While doing so, Jim and Cindy speak through metaphors, saying that they don’t approve of Joni, and want Tim to stay away from her. I’m sorry, but what has Joni done to deserve the Greens’ mistrust? Oh, and if you want Tim to get the memo, you need to stop speaking in metaphors!

Another thing about this scene – I may have poor foot/eye coordination, but I can kick a soccer ball. How inept is this little booger? This becomes even worse when throughout the season, Coach Cal never lets Tim on the field, forcing him to be the waterboy. No, not The Waterboy. The Waterboy was at least less painfully unfunny than TOLoTG.

One night, after Jim is in a bad mood about the state of the pencil factory, he brings up this phrase:

JIM: With a pencil, anything is possible.

TIM: That is so true.

Yes! That’s how we can feed all of the starving children in Africa! Pencils! That’s how we can defeat ISIS! Pencils! That’s how we can end US-Russia and Israel-Palestine tensions! Pencils! That’s how we can fix everything that’s wrong with our world! We can cure cancer! We can stop all wars! We can collect all the stray cats and dogs in the world, bring them to orphans, and give every orphan and his/her pet a happy home! Pencils! Pencils, pencils, FREAKING PENCILS!

Jim even mentions that he first met Cindy when she was wearing a pencil costume! And when Tim goes to bed, Jim and Cindy come up with a revolutionary idea that will save the pencil factory and Stanleyville! A pencil…made entirely out of leaves! Sorry to burst your bubble, guys, but THAT IS NOT POSSIBLE! The dang thing would fall apart long before it could ever be used! Oh, and when they grind up the leaves, they use a mortar and pestle. Wow! And Jim presents the idea to his boss on “Bring your kid to work day”. That same day, Cindy takes Tim to the pencil museum she works at, where Tim sees a painting of Franklin Crudstaff’s mother (who is also Cindy’s boss). Tim says that he could do it better for free. Tim does so, and is indeed honest to a fault, as he also draws her patch of chin hair. This causes Garner to also be honest to a fault to her boss, and she is fired. Yes. Cindy just threw away her job, even though she knew full well that Jim’s job is in serious jeopardy.

KUNI (UHF): Stupid! You’re so stupid!

Cindy confronts Joni, telling her to stay away from Tim. Yes. How dare Joni pay attention to Tim and show concern for him! But Joni shows her a myriad of projects that she and Tim have done, and this convinces Cindy to stop badgering Joni.

At the next soccer game, Cindy and Brenda (oh yeah, she’s still in this movie) get into a parental competition, but Brenda easily bests Cindy when she brings up that not only are her kids working on second languages, not only are they doing all sorts of public service projects, not only do they have their annual music recital coming up, but they can do all of this and still be a happy family. Dude! That is awesome! Tim should have been their kid! And what have Jim and Cindy done? Well, I’m going to put that question away until later, because by the end of the movie, this question will really come back and stab this movie in the butt.

But back to the scene. Cindy, in a desperate attempt to one-up Brenda, BLATANTLY LIES about Tim, saying that

CINDY: He’s musical.

Brenda immediately sees through the lie, as she says

BRENDA: What instruments (PLURAL!!!!!) does he play?

Jim even agrees with the audience that this was a stupid idea on Cindy’s part.

Of COURSE Cindy’s lie backfires – WOW! Brenda’s family is AWESOME! Brenda plays the piano. Her husband plays auxiliary percussion and handbells. Her oldest son plays cello. Her second son plays bassoon. Her daughter plays flute. That’s incredible! I would encourage these kids to join the Reno Youth Symphony Orchestra (RYSO)!

As expected, Brenda calls Tim up to…screw it, just PLAY SOMETHING. HOW WILL TIMMY GET OUT OF THIS ONE? Well, he plinks out a few notes on the piano, flicks the chimes, picks up and puts down a shaker, and then picks up a cowbell and a drum stick. He taps it a few times before playing a simple rhythm. Seeing that Tim is in a desperate situation, Jim gets up, whacks the wall a few times in rhythm, and scats his way into “Low Rider” by Josh Groban. Then Cindy joins in. And then the actual song is dubbed in post-production. As a very prideful, closed-minded musician, this scene is incredibly painful for me to sit through.

The next scene features the final soccer game of the season. Of course the enemy team is going to be called the Bone Crushers. Of course they’re going to be tall, buff players with dark complexions that wear maroon uniforms. After some badgering from Jim, Coach Cal puts Tim on the field. After reenacting the sun-absorbing sequence, Tim takes control, gets the ball, and scores the winning goal…for the enemy team. I knew that Tim was mentally challenged, but DAMN.

BUGS BUNNY: What a maroon.

We then cut back to the USAS interview, where Jim and Cindy’s time for the interview is up. They acknowledge their bad parenting skills, but they refuse to leave. The sanity of all mankind is questioned when the interviewer actually lets them stay longer.

At the soccer celebration dinner, this happens between Tim and Joni.

JIM: … it looks like you just broke up with her.

TIM: No. I let her go.

Brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department ™. (Sean, please don’t sue me)

The next scene involves some sort of rally to “save the factory”, where Crudstaff’s father congratulates Franklin for having come up with the idea for the leaf pencil! Of COURSE Franklin Crudstaff was going to do that! Hell, his last name is “CRUDSTAFF”! Tim reveals to the entire audience that he has leaves on his legs, and that is how his parents came up with the idea, rather than Crudstaff. Tim shows his leaves, the leaf pencil idea is attributed to the right people, Crudstaff is shamed and shunned, and the FACTORY IS SAVED! Yaaaaaaay.

But – gasp! – what a twist! It turns out that Tim has, over time, been losing leaves from his legs, and we learn that when the last leaf goes, he goes too. This is why he only had one leaf on his left leg when he revealed himself to the whole of Stanleyville. Yes. He had one leaf on his leg, and the entire room believed him. Wow.

Anyways, once Jim, Cindy, and Tim get home, Tim’s last leaf falls, and he disappears, taking his bland, boring, naïve, annoying childishness with him. Thank heaven.

We finally go back to and stay in the present, as Jim and Cindy have finished their story. They reveal that Tim left them a letter, saying that he had given his leaves to all the people he had affected in his short life, and had left the last one for Jim and Cindy. And never once does he tell Jim and Cindy that he loves them. What a little craphead.

So, after hearing this absolutely insane story, combined with this confession that the Greens are both unprepared and incompetent in the realm of parenthood, would you trust a child to the care of these crazy parents? Of course you would! Jim and Cindy adopt a little Asian girl named Lily, and they all live happily ever after.

This movie is not all that bad. Sure, it was downright annoying at times. The plot sometimes forgot that different parts of it existed and then brought those parts back up at inappropriate times. However, Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton are clearly trying. Jennifer Garner is really damn good whenever I see her play a mother. But the movie itself is too overwhelmingly cutesy to be any good.

But there is one major flaw in this movie that makes it excruciating to watch.

The actual parenting in this movie is awful. I have been able to separate the flaws into two categories.

  • What Jim and Cindy say is this: because they have made mistakes, they will intentionally make bigger ones. They screwed up. They’re glad they screwed up. And they will continue to screw up in new, bigger, more spectacular ways. … … … NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Parenting is NOT about making mistakes just for the sake of making more mistakes! You LEARN from your mistakes to you can become better and be able to not only not make these mistakes again, but make the right choices in the future! Jim and Cindy NEVER got better at parenting – if anything, they actually got WORSE. They NEVER LEARNED that PARENTING IS A LEARNING EXPERIENCE! This transitions into the next category:
  • Jim and Cindy RARELY, if EVER, actually ASKED TIM QUESTIONS. “Where did you come from? Why do you have leaves on your legs? What is the extent of your brainpower? What do you know? What do you like? What do you not like? Screw it – we’re signing you up for soccer! Don’t like it? Tough – deal with it! Do you know how to play a musical instrument? Screw it – get up there and play something, goshdangit! Who’s that chick? I don’t care – stay away from her!”

It boggles my mind to no end to know that plenty of people actually LIKE this movie.

I have absolutely no idea why.

Final Verdict: .5 out of 5 stars. Good acting saved this from being worse.

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