A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a Disney family film that uses "magical realism" to explain how an infertile couple gets to parent the kid of their (literal) dreams. As you might expect from the premise, the movie gets pretty weepy at times (for both on-screen and off-screen parents), but it will remind families about the joy of being together and being each other's biggest cheerleaders. There are a couple of sad scenes, as well as some bullying incidents and language, but otherwise this is the sort of live-action movie that kids and adults can enjoy together, even if they need a tissue or two by the end.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Small-town couple Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) tell adoption officials a fascinating story about their time raising a boy named Timothy (C.J. Adams). Months earlier, the Greens -- distraught after finding out they were infertile -- spent a night drinking wine and waxing poetic about all of the qualities they'd want in a child (he'd score the winning goal just once, he'd be musical, he'd love and be loved) and then bury their wishes in their garden. During a storm that seems to hit only their property, they discover a dirt-covered boy sitting in their kitchen. He's got leaves on his feet and tells the Greens his name is Timothy and that he's their son. The Greens, who start to realize that Timothy embodies all of their wishes, pretend he's adopted. Soon, Timothy is changing not just Cindy and Jim's lives, but those of everyone he meets.
Is it any good?
Jaded viewers might dismiss THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN as a cheesy weepie for moms, and they wouldn't be all wrong. It is sentimental. It is particularly heartfelt for parents. And, yes, it is likely to make you cry, or at the very least get glassy eyed with emotion. Newcomer Adams is reminiscent of Haley Joel Osment circa The Sixth Sense. He's expressive and earnest and easy to root for as a different but lovable tween who's honest to a fault and can bring out the best in even the most off-putting people (like his surly grandfather, played by David Morse, or the town's mean patroness, Dianne Wiest).
Edgerton and Garner are versatile performers who can go from spies and baddies to the sweetest of small-town parents, and it works -- but you have to be willing to accept the movie's sugary sprinkling of magic. Of course Timothy isn't "believable," but neither was Mary Poppins. What is believable is that children, through their unfettered optimism and penchant for truth-telling, have the power to not only change their parents but to touch others in a meaningful way. And no matter how syrupy that message may be, it's one that's worth internalizing and holding dear to our hearts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Odd Life of Timothy Green's emphasis on parent-kid relationships. How does Timothy get along with his parents more than most on-screen kids?
How does the movie portray bullying? Did the Greens handle Timothy's humiliating incident as you would have expected? What are some positive ways to handle bullying?
What do you think of the story's magical elements? Would you have preferred it to end a different way? Why do you think Timothy's time with the Greens was temporary?
- In theaters: August 15, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: December 4, 2012
- Cast: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Ron Livingston
- Director: Peter Hedges
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild thematic elements and brief language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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