The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a magical misfire

As Ben Affleck has resurrected his career post-Bennifer implosion with a series of increasingly impressive directorial efforts, it’s easy to speculate that the Gigli star has learned a thing or two about the perils of working alongside romantic partners.  So whilst Jennifer Garner’s husband wows critics with his latest release, Argo, the former “Alias” leading lady is left to take on a seemingly endless stream of lacklustre big screen projects.  With a résumé that already includes the maligned Arthur remake, an odious Valentine’s Day and the *ahem* unforgettable Elektra, Garner can now add Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green to her growing list of movie mistakes.   

The Odd Life of Timothy Green focuses on a couple (Garner and Warrior’s Joel Edgerton) who are unable to conceive a child.  Of course, as this Disney-fied fantasy film is a U-certificate, such weighty issues are never addressed specifically or even by name.  A scene explaining that the stork has lost broody duo’s address would be less patronising than the actual one that depicts the pair’s sterile discussion with their doctor.  The film itself is a series of prolonged flashback sequences, as Garner’s overly wholesome Cindy and Edgerton’s energetic pencil-producing hubby, Jim, reveal their unbelievable tale during an interview with an adoption agency.  What follows is, essentially, the story of a Cabbage Patch Kid who grows out of the Green’s garden following a magical rain storm.  Taking on the name Timothy (CJ Adams), the young boy embodies all the hopes and dreams within Cindy and Jim of a child they’ll never have via natural means.  So thrilled is the remarkably accepting couple that when Timothy asks “Please don’t ask about my leaves”, as he has unexplained foliage on his legs, they dutifully ignore the sheer insanity of the situation and quickly begin to take on typical parental roles.  It’s all utter nonsense delivered with straight-faced sincerity that never has much fun with sugary-sweet concept.

Co-written by director Peter Hedges and Ahmet Zappa (of the infamous Zappa clan, here with his first film writing credit), The Odd Life of Timothy Green is so firmly based in fantasy that it barely offers any rationale for what is seen on-screen   Cindy’s relationship with her sister Brenda (a wasted Rosemarie DeWitt) is all over the shop for no apparent reason beyond convenience.  When a family member passes away of an undisclosed cause, despite a remarkably healthy appearance, the scene entirely lacks an emotional depth that might have made it worth witnessing.  Unfortunately, The Odd Life of Timothy Green lines up one contrivance after another: witness a brutally cringe-tastic “yearly family concert” or the absurdity of Timothy sketching a portrait of Cindy’s eeeevil boss (Diane Wiest), in a moment disturbingly reminiscent of an often-paused scene from Titanic.  If there’s any amusement to be found in The Odd Life of Timothy Green, it’s in just how daft the film gets. Adams is surprisingly confident in his feature début  but it’s difficult to find a reason to genuinely care about his character or, indeed, any of the others.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is pleasant enough, as it is awash with an outstanding autumnal colour palette and a story as fluffy )and compelling) as candy floss.  Edgerton makes a baffling jump to family friendly films, but manages well, even if he’s better suited for Animal Kingdom­-esque roles.  Yet, the film’s highlight comes once the credits mercifully hit the screen and Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard’s contribution, “The Gift”, fills the air.  It’s a terrific song, but is far too little, too late to rescue this disappointing piece of magic-stuffed bobbins.

In more sensible hands The Odd Life of Timothy Green might have been an enjoyable, engaging slice of movie magic.  As it is though, Hedges’ film is bogged down by a series of unfortunately lazy events.  There may be enough to preoccupy a young audience with its rapid succession of poorly constructed incidents, but even kids may be more likely to yawn-out-loud than laugh.  As for poor Garner, perhaps she should consider donning her own alias the next time Ben Affleck casts a film.  4/10

The Odd Life of Timothy Green reaches UK cinemas 7 December

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