Something is growing in the pumpkin patch behind the Greens’ backyard, and it’s not the usual heirloom tomatoes. This is a kid, a little boy named Timothy, who sprouts from the very spot where Cindy and Jim Green planted their handwritten goodbyes to a child they will never have.
So launches “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” a new Disney production that attempts a bit of magical realism. The kid settles down with the overjoyed (if slightly puzzled) Greens for a spell of unexpected parenting.
The movie is the harvest of writer-director Peter Hedges’ imagination, and — as with the best fantasy — once the premise is established, Hedges simply moves forward with the story, as though relieved to have gotten the fantastic part of it out of the way.
The Greens (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) quickly arrange for Timothy to enter school, and they present him at a family gathering. They worry about the usual kid things (Is he being bullied? Is he spending too much time with a bossy girl?), but mostly they dig the whole idea of being parents, especially after being told it was medically impossible.
“Odd Life” keeps moving along in a nonsaccharine way, as Timothy’s journey introduces us to a cast of stock characters who would not be out of place in a Frank Capra picture: Cindy’s sour sister (Rosemarie DeWitt, currently in “Your Sister’s Sister”), Jim’s stoic father (David Morse), a pragmatic soccer coach (Common) who knows better than to actually put Timothy into a game.
Dianne Wiest and Ron Livingston play different generations of the town’s ruling business family. They own a pencil factory and they must be related to Old Man Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” They’ll learn their lessons, too.
Timothy, winningly played by CJ Adams, has these little leaves growing out of his lower legs, which are there to remind us of his magical qualities (as if we could forget, given the concept).
I could believe that easily enough, at least for the duration of the movie, but what I couldn’t quite buy was that the Greens would be telling this entire story to an adoption agency. This does not seem like a good strategy for impressing the adoption people.
But they’re relying on their heart being in the right place, as is the movie. And it is a sweet and well-meaning movie; in fact, everything is in the right place, almost too much so.
Garner and Edgerton (he’s the Aussie actor from “Warrior” and “Animal Kingdom”) are unfailingly likable, with very few rough edges. Hedges has found a way to make this kind of nice-guy approach work (his film “Dan in Real Life” is genuinely charming), but in this case “likable” doesn’t translate into anything more than that.
It’ll be interesting to see if the movie clicks with audiences; it seems too weird for kids and too traumatic for parents. If it does catch on with kids, expect a rash of things buried in back yards; and if something starts growing, call your agent.
“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” ½
An offbeat Disney project about a childless couple (Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton) who find a little boy has emerged from their backyard garden. The movie’s well done enough, yet the implied magic doesn’t quite soar the way it wants to, despite the best efforts of director Peter Hedges and the likable cast.
Rated: PG for subject matter.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Edmonds, Galaxy Monroe, Marsyville, Stanwood, Meridian, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.