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The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012)

tomatometer

33

Average Rating: 5.2/10
Reviews Counted: 123
Fresh: 41 | Rotten: 82

It means well, but The Odd Life of Timothy Green is ultimately too cloyingly sentimental -- and thinly scripted -- to satisfy all but the least demanding viewers.

40

Average Rating: 5.5/10
Critic Reviews: 30
Fresh: 12 | Rotten: 18

It means well, but The Odd Life of Timothy Green is ultimately too cloyingly sentimental -- and thinly scripted -- to satisfy all but the least demanding viewers.

audience

68

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 204,396

My Rating

Movie Info

Director/writer Peter Hedges brings enchantment to the screen with The Odd Life of Timothy Green, an inspiring, magical story about a happily married couple, Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton), who can't wait to start a family but can only dream about what their child would be like. When young Timothy (CJ Adams) shows up on their doorstep one stormy night, Cindy and Jim -- and their small town of Stanleyville -- learn that sometimes the unexpected can bring some of life's

PG,

Science Fiction & Fantasy, Comedy

Peter Hedges, Ahmet Zappa

Dec 4, 2012

$51.9M

Walt Disney Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (123) | Top Critics (30) | Fresh (41) | Rotten (82) | DVD (1)

Odd indeed.

April 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is schmaltzy and very saccharine, so sweet it'll give you a toothache.

August 22, 2012 Full Review Source: Film.com
Film.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's hard to believe that Hedges once wrote some decent light fiction (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, An Ocean in Iowa) before he started making greeting-card movies like Dan in Real Life and this one.

August 16, 2012 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (5)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"There comes a point where "Odd Life of Timothy Green" is just too sentimental and too odd."

August 16, 2012 Full Review Source: Richard Roeper.com | Comment (1)
Richard Roeper.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A fable about parenting and its accompanying joys and sorrows, done in the trademark Walt Disney style of pleasant, feel-good entertainment that doesn't leave much of an emotional trace.

August 16, 2012 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Mostly, The Odd Life of Timothy Green feels contrived , if undeniably sweet.

August 15, 2012 Full Review Source: USA Today
USA Today
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Even allowing for a certain level of unreality in a movie intended as an allegory, The Odd Life of Timothy Green smells of contrivance and falseness.

July 17, 2013 Full Review Source: EricDSnider.com
EricDSnider.com

Instead of wanting to turn over a new "leaf," I wound up OD-ing on sap.

May 26, 2013 Full Review Source: The Patriot Ledger
The Patriot Ledger

As odd as the title suggests, this is a strange and dreadfully overwrought family yarn.

May 19, 2013 Full Review Source: The Sunday Age

Not so much moving as stomach churning.

April 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

It looks and sounds like your average family feelgood movie, but everything else about it is just plain odd.

April 10, 2013 Full Review Source: SFX Magazine
SFX Magazine

A slice of retro whimsy, it's rooted to nothing in particular and is inoffensive in every way except its overwhelming blandness.

April 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Scotsman

[A] painfully sentimental, would-be magical tale ...

April 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

The Odd Life of Timothy Green, finds Disney at an altogether new low, capped off by a cringeworthy dance sequence that will make you scream for Timothy to crawl back into his magical hole.

April 5, 2013 Full Review Source: HeyUGuys
HeyUGuys

Timothy's magic is as modest as can be, and its aim is a bit off... [U]ndemanding, inoffensive, and instantly forgettable.

April 5, 2013 Full Review Source: Flick Filosopher
Flick Filosopher

This is a remarkably bonkers example of Hollywood schmaltz. It's so glossy and gooey, it makes Forrest Gump look like Fight Club.

April 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Daily Mail [UK]
Daily Mail [UK]

A gooey mess, but not an entirely dislikable one.

April 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

A bizarre parable about parenting, the picture is nicely acted and occasionally touching but the lugubrious story is both dull and preposterous.

April 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

The Odd Life Of Timothy Green made me shiver, like having a lizard crawl over your face when you're asleep.

April 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

Has ever a film battled more fruitlessly against the creepiness of its own premise than The Odd Life of Timothy Green?

April 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Disney gone pathologically fey.

April 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

It's not afraid to deal with darker issues - that childhood isn't forever - and Adams plays it just the right side of mawkish while Hedges makes sure it's anything but a smooth ride.

April 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

Relentlessly mawkish wish-fulfilment fantasy drama that fails to engage on any meaningful level, to the point where you end up feeling sorry for the actors.

April 4, 2013 Full Review Source: ViewLondon
ViewLondon

The bittersweet mood pervades until the final frames when Hedges contrives a satisfying resolution that should leave a few lumps in throats.

April 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post

This 
is wholesome whimsy, but only the very green can fail 
to spot where the plot is heading after the first leaf drops and the symbolism needs pruning.

April 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Scotsman
Scotsman

Audience Reviews for The Odd Life of Timothy Green

When I saw the previews of this movie, I honestly thought that it looked kind of silly. Well..I couldn't have been more wrong. This fantasy movie was just wonderful. It was sweet, funny, charming, and a complete all around wonderfully likeable family film. If this movie doesn't warm your heart, nothing will....
March 1, 2013
itsjustme2004

Super Reviewer

My friend and critical colleague Ben Bailey had warned me about The Odd Life of Timothy Green and he quite eloquently voiced his dumbfounded musings, which I will try my best not to knowingly replicate though I'm sure there will be some carryover. But whatever he wrote could not prepare me for what I ultimately got with The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Ladies and gentlemen, I think this movie broke my brain.

Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) are having trouble conceiving a child. One night they write a list of their hopes for a future child, place them in a box, and bury this chest of hopes in their garden. The next day they are shocked to discover a child covered in dirt claiming to be their son, Timothy (CJ Adams). He is the physical manifestation of all those buried hopes and wishes with some leaves attached to his ankles. The Greens take their magical parenthood in stride, trying their best to impart wisdom to their new son. They teach the kid how to play soccer, stand up to bullies, and interact with other human beings. Timothy has a secret he can't bring himself to tell his new mom and dad, but if you have a hard time figuring out what his leaves falling off means, then there's nothing I can do for you.

I feel like I just watched a movie where every person on Earth is depicted as being insane. Not goofy, not eccentric, not a little funny, no, we're talking get the butterfly nets and padded cells. I feel partially insane just having watched the film, obviously still suffering from a contact buzz of insanity. I accept suspension of disbelief and that fantasy-based family films are going to have a whimsical nature to them. We cannot apply every rule of reality and logic to them, and I accept this. But The Odd Life of Timothy Green seems to exist in a fractured, cracked version of our own world, where the most bizarre and fantastical elements are just given a halfhearted shoulder shrug. People react to otherworldly events as if they were doing laundry. Where's the awe? Or, more so, where is the skepticism? Seriously, if anybody told you they grew a child from a garden, would you accept this notion at face value? Their great piece of proof is that the kid has leaves attached to his ankles. Don't you think, I don't know, the parents could have taped those on? Beyond one guy, no one investigates this strange botanical phenomenon or even has the slightest inclination to. Where's the intellectual curiosity, people? It's like everyone in town has a lobotomy. Is there not one person in this small town that will dare stand and say, "You know, I think I'm going to require more empirical evidence to buy the story that this kid was formerly plant food." And then they ran that one man out of town on a rail and salted his land.

Timothy Green tries to gather a slew of messages and feel-good moments; it's just that none of them feel coherent or truly earned. The parents don't feel like responsible or even interesting adults. I understand we're not going to dwell too much on the disappointments of a couple unsuccessful in conceiving a child (this is becoming an odd trend for Garner), but I expected more than one good cry and a bottle of wine. I want to empathize with these people but the movie makes it impossible time and again with their nonsensical behavior; it's like they're adults as envisioned by a child. On that note, I think the movie probably makes more sense from a fantasy point of view to flip the participants. It seems more likely that a child would try and grow new, ideal parents only to learn a lesson about the duds they're stuck with. The Green family members all work one-note, whether it's the snide sister (Rosemarie DeWitt), the slaphappy grandpappy (M. Emmet Walsh), or the emotionally distant dad (David Morse), it's all a tiny nub of characterization that gets whittled down to nothing. And then Timothy just seems to step into everyone's lives and change them forever with little effort. He gets an older girl to fall in love with him, his father to stand up for himself and his family, and all the not nice people in town to be somewhat less not nice. He gets his mom to speak her mind to her bitchy boss (Dianne Wiest), which ends up getting her fired, so it's a mixed message.

You want a prime example of this film's collective shared insanity? Take this line from one of the board members from the town pencil factory: "If this boy can have leaves on his ankles, then we can make a pencil out of leaves." What exactly does one have to do with the other, you may ask? I suppose it's some claptrap about what is truly possible or whatever. My apologies to Ben Bailey for treading ground he has examined closely, but this cautionary line of dialogue glows with the intensity of 100 neon signs. It's everything that is wrong and crazy about this movie, and the fact that it is spoken without a hint of irony or humor is all the more galling.

Here's my problem with Timothy the life-changer: the kid is a dullard. He has no personality, he has no real insights or perceptions into life, he's not funny, he's not that interesting, and he eerily stays in the same modulated emotional presence. I found this kid far more unintentionally creepy than endearing. On paper, Timothy Green sounds like it should be a horror film and not the saccharine family slop that it is. Timothy just comes across like a rather band kid with some weird tendencies, like his repeated inclination to soak up any sunny opportunity to photosynthesize (he gives Scott Stapp a run for his arms-wide-open pose throne). If a character is going to touch people's lives and change their perspectives on life, then at least make that person fitting of praise. This kid just seems like a hazy mystic that's playing it as he goes. Come to think of it, did anyone see him do anything superhuman? Cindy and Jim didn't even find him in the garden, only inside their home covered in dirt. Who's to say that young Timothy Green wasn't a con artist this whole time?

Then, likely as a defensive means to sooth my ailing brain, I started coming up with my own version of where Timothy Green should have gone. The ability to write down a bunch of general attributes and then grow a child seems too good to pass up. I desire more of this unique child cultivation process. For instance, Cindy and Jim want their kid to rock out as a musician, but they simply write "rocks" on their slip of paper before burying it. How is the magical entity that raises mutant plant kids going to be able to understand what the family intends with this vague entry? What if Timothy Green was born with rocks in his head? I wanted the film to simply turn into a comical version of The Monkey's Paw, where every new version of Timothy Green would go horribly wrong. The first was born and then immediately suffocated because Cindy and Jim forgot to write "working lungs." Then there would be the Timothy born with a "hunger for life" and become a cannibalistic plant zombie. Or the Timothy born with "his mother's heart" and then upon his birth Cindy's heart would go missing. What I wanted was a macabre trail and error game where the would-be parents had to refine exactly what they were asking for with the nondescript magical being in charge of answering hopeful parents. I want The Odd Lives of Timothy Green and I want Cindy and Jim to have to bury all the malfunctioning prototypes in the same garden. Then, when they do perfect their perfect kid, the police find a yard littered with the corpses of children and haul them away.

The movie is told through the framing device of the Greens telling their story to the adoption agency, and why this adoption agency continues to listen after, "We grew a boy in our yard," is beyond my guess. In a film breaking every boundary of believability known to mankind, this aspect to me seems the most incredulous. This is an adoption agency with standards and rules to follow, and to think they would allow a couple to drone on and on about their magical child that grew from a garden and changed people's lives, instead of calling security and having them escorted from the premises, followed home, and then have their home exhumed for human remains of this child, is beyond me. And then, spoiler alert, they get a kid in the end. What adoption agency could reasonably and responsibly allow these two people, with no physical shred of evidence about their magical child other than some leaves and testimonies, to care for another human being?

Allow me to also question the sincerity of these two damaged people especially concerning their desire for a child. It sure seems like Cindy and Jim are planning on using their present and/or future child as means of settling some longstanding scores between relatives. When it looks like timothy is finally going to do well in soccer, that's when they pounce, airing out their resentments. Cindy brattily unloads against her sister: "I've had to listen to your perfect kids, well look at my kid! That's my kid!" And then Jim finally let's his distant father have a piece of his mind: "I could have been a good player too, dad. I had skills. If only you would have been more supportive." Am I supposed to find any of this funny, because it comes across as far more sad. I feel like the reason that Cindy and Jim want a child is to desperately prove to their family that they are superior parents. It feels like one very crazy way of proving a point and one where the child will suffer, especially if he or she cannot live to a degree of excellence to provide mom and dad filial ammunition. Another example: both Cindy and Jim are oddly very jealous over the relationship their pseudo son forms with the slightly older gal, Joni (Odeya Rush). They try and talk him out of spending time with her, arguing there are so many fish in the sea for him to pay attention to. Are you really laying the argument that a 10-year-old should be playing the field? It also seems weirdly petty and controlling for two supposed adults to be jealous that their son chooses to spend part of his waking hours with another human being. So, does that sound like a loving and healthy family?

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is certainly odd but probably not for the reasons that Disney or the filmmakers had in mind. It feels like it exists in an alternative universe where everyone lacks any common sense, curiosity, or relatable human emotions. Nobody acts like a recognizable human being in this film, not for a single second. These people are all zombies, cowed into the cult of Timothy, the magical and, ultimately, messianic figure. But allow me to declare the emperor has no clothes. This Timothy is not worthy of the adulation he receives. He walks around like an ecological Forrest Gump, spitting sappy platitudes and changing lives with the insipid nature of all these easy messages. I wish I could say there was one genuine moment in this movie, but I cannot. It takes a magical premise and suffocates it with unearned solemnity. Why can't a movie about growing a kid in your garden try and be, you know, fun? Well, I suppose embarrassing music recitals and kids getting hit in the head could be mistaken for fun, but I prefer a well developed story, characters I care about, and a genuine sense of enchantment to go with the supernatural. If we can make a movie about a kid with leaves on his ankles, then we can turn any sort of half-formed maudlin pap into family entertainment. Kids deserve better than The Odd Life of Timothy Green, and, for the record, so do plants.

Nate's Grade: D
January 19, 2013
boxman
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

"Odd Life of Timothy Green" is one of those movies where you just have to go with it, or you won't enjoy it at all. It's about a couple, Cindy(Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green(Joel Edgerton) who cannot have a child. One night in there depression of being unable to conceive, they make a list of everything they would want in a son, put it in a box and bury it in their garden. A storm comes, and boy covered in dirt with leaves on his legs, and he calls Cindy and Jim mom and dad. From their they treat him as their son, and he exudes all the qualities they wanted in a son. He enriches their lives and the lives of everyone else in their lives/town. It's a cute family Disney movie with a pretty crazy premise, and generic execution. It's fine for what it is, and like I said, you either go with it or not. I thought it was ok and worth a watch. I've seen much worse. Emily liked it and actually stayed awake for the entire thing, so I think women will dig it. Give it a shot.
January 4, 2013
Everett Johnson

Super Reviewer

He's a force of nature.

Great Film! Disney written all over it!I wish Disney made more movies like this. Totally clean, nothing even remotely possibly offensive, and yet it wasn't just a kid show. It was interesting, engaging and witty. The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a great family movie to see, and it really gives you that warm feeling when you finish seeing it. I highly recommend seeing it. A unique family story about adoption with a sprinkle of that Disney magic!

After receiving bad news from a fertility doctor, Cindy and Jim Green try to bury their dreams of having a child by writing out all the great traits their child would have and putting them in a box in the garden. During a freak storm in the middle of the night, they awake to find a boy named Timothy, with leaves growing from his ankles, standing in their kitchen calling them mom and dad. Cindy and Jim are thrown into the midst of parenthood and over the coming months, Timothy will teach them more than they could have imagined about being parents and raising a child, no matter how he comes into their lives.
December 8, 2012
MANUGINO
Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

    1. Uncle Bub: Did you know I invented the peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
    2. Timothy: Did you know I'm a great fan of your work?
    – Submitted by Frances H (8 months ago)
    1. Jim Green: He'll score the winning goal.
    – Submitted by Ron H (19 months ago)
    1. Jim Green: Have a great day!
    2. Cindy Green: That's too much pressure...
    3. Jim Green: Have a day you have!
    – Submitted by Sean M (20 months ago)
    1. Cindy Green: We want to tell you our story.
    2. Jim Green: There is just one thing.
    3. Cindy Green: You're going to find it hard to believe.
    – Submitted by Sean M (20 months ago)
    1. Cindy Green: 54 girl names on the list...
    – Submitted by Chris P (20 months ago)
    1. Timothy: There is something you need to know about me.
    – Submitted by Chris P (20 months ago)
View all quotes (6)

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"I loved writing the script because I didn't know what was going to happen."

Foreign Titles

  • Das wundersame Leben von Timothy Green (DE)
  • La extraña vida de Timothy Green (ES)
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