Many critics have felt that Disney’s family drama is in some need of pruning and, in terms of predictability, it’s not hard to see why. That said, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a hugely likable and well-intentioned film. The film has an old fashioned feel to it, which both aids and repels. It aids as this is the kind of harmless fare not seen as much nowadays but repels in that it recalls countless other, earlier family dramas from the Disney cannon (The Parent Trap comes to mind).
From the offset it is not hard to see where most of this film is heading, from the parent’s initial fears of never having a child, Timothy’s school bullies, football games and the leaf symbolism. This film is plagued by an immovable predictability and thus offers little to no shocks throughout. Also the film’s traditional framing, while sweet and heartwarming, has an old fashionedness that feels too much like idealism. This does sometimes draw you away from the events. For example the whole film revolves around a storytelling session in an adoption agency and there is no doubting that the outcome would hardly come to be in this day and age. Then again that could just be cynicism!
In terms of plotting the film hits its aims of being well-intentioned family entertainment that is defined and driven by heart. This film borrows heavily from the rulebook but it is hard to stay mad at a film like this. This is a film that will engage the right viewers and connect to those children who feel socially separated and “different”. The love story between Timothy (CJ Adams) and loner Jodi (Odeya Rush) is especially indicative of this. Plus, towards the end the film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green begins to shine and is, at moments, genuinely lump-in-throaty. This friendly outlook, doubled with the casting, more than helps in making the film’s predictable nature easier to cope with.
The biggest ray of sunlight here is in the young CJ Adams who is brilliant as Timothy; charming, at times funny and never irritating and is a really refreshing young character. Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner don’t deliver a tour-de-force but give warmth and care as his flawed but caring parents Joe and Cindy. Yes, the token characters distractingly appear (pathetic bosses, distant dads, bragging sisters bearing “perfect kids”) but the cast gives it a good investment and thus creates charming characterisations.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green benefits from the warm casting and the likability of its leads. Many will question the schmaltz but, despite handing out no surprises, director Peter Hedges offers us an effective blend of fantasy, drama and family. There is genuine heart on show in this traditional Disney offering, making scenes like the foreseeable but nevertheless sincere finish work. All this is well backed with some gentle scoring from Geoff Zanelli, which at times is pleasingly allowed to go on to full effect. The film is certainly familiar but is still a rather funny and genuinely welcome break from the far more callous world off-screen.