Avoid the crabgrass: “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”

September 3, 2012

Let me go on record saying I did not choose this movie. Okay? I wanna be real clear about that. If it was up to me, I’d be sitting at home, watching Predator 2. But, hey, I gotta be a good friend and go along with a buddy to see this thing. And so, well, here we are with The Odd Life of Timothy Green. And boy, does it say some disturbing things about our culture…

Full disclosure: I fell asleep in the middle of the movie, so maybe there’s some hidden awesomeness in there where, oh I dunno, say Chris Yen gets into a catfight with Thandie Newton, but, um, I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen.

Okay, so Odd Life…well, basically we have this couple—Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton—who really, really want to have a kid. Really, really want to have a kid. Really bad. Really. Bad. The movie starts with the two of them facing off a stone-faced adoption official (Shohreh Aghdashloo), and present as evidence of their fitness to be parents the story of Timothy. Who’s Timothy, you ask. And might he perhaps be odd, you inquire. Well, we’re getting to that.

So their story begins when they get the bad news that Jennifer isn’t pregnant (“No one has tried harder to get pregnant than you two,” their doctor informs them, though Garner and Edgerton are such a white-bread, sexless couple, I have a hard time believing they’ve even seen each other naked, let alone, spent a month riding the wild pony). Garner freaks, and gets hysterical, and Edgerton plies her with wine. Not a bad plan, really.

They make the L.L. Bean catalog look like “50 Shades of Gray.”

So they get drunk and write down all the traits they want their child to have, and, whoa! Any kid they have has a hell of a lot to live up to: hey want him to be musically-inclined, and witty, and smart—basically, the perfect child. Something tells me their eventual child is going to be a hell of a disappointment and will grow up to be a crank-dealing Cthulu-ite just out of spite. Anyway, Garner plants their list in her garden, and that night there is a massive downpour. Next thing you know, a child pops out of the garden (CJ Green). No, really.

Well, the kid turns out to be Timothy and he’s pretty much the embodiment of their perfect child. He’s kind of a Haley Joel Osmet-type who is preternaturally smart and articulate. Also, he has indestructible leaves growing out of his ankles. It’s actually kind of disturbing. Like, if it were me, I’d be hosing the thing down with holy water and kerosene, just to be on the safe side.

Tell me honestly you don’t want to push him out of that tree…

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Cool! We have some sort of Village of the Damned thing going on, and the kid’s some kind of alien plant-monster with psychic abilities who will, I dunno, rally the evil trees from The Happening against the town, right? Alas, no. He’s just supposedly a really, really perfect kid who goes around being perfect to everybody, teaching them life-lessons, and eventually saving the town’s pencil-factory (it’s sole source of income, apparently). And then he disappears back into the storm. Yeah, so he’s sorta like E.T. if E.T. came to earth to save the auto industry or something. In the end, the story so moves the adoption official she drops off a brand new Asian toddler for them, reminding all the anxious, childless couples out there that while you might not be able to grow your own perfect child, there are still plenty of Third World kids to go around.

It’s like Sunday in the Romney household.

The big question I have is not you can actually grow a kid in your garden (I’m pretty sure you can’t), but who exactly comprises the intended audience for this movie? There’s nothing that appeals to kids—no, the weird, perfect child at the film’s center is not going to hold the interest of kids who would rather watch an animated fish or Wall-E—and is too dumbed-down to engage adults. Best I can figure, this movie was made for (and possibly by) lunatic upper middle-class couples who are obsessed with having children. Apparently, as a culture we’ve become so all-consumed by something that used to be a pretty basic undertaking (end World War Two, add G.I. Bill, wait) that we have to tell fairy tales to adults just to soothe their troubled brows and reassure them that, yes, you too will be validated as human beings by having your own little walking, talking accessory. Weird. You’d think we were living in the world of Children of Men.

What else do have? Well, this is part I was awake for:

* Okay, so the town: it’s so freaking wholesome it makes Mayberry look like Tijuana during shore leave. If the Cleavers lived here, they’d probably be run out as sodomites.

That sound was the entire RNC having an orgasm.

* Timothy’s big contribution to save the town? A pencil made of leaves. Yep, that’s the big MacGuffin. Now, granted I don’t know a whole lot about the labyrinthine workings of the cutthroat pencil-manufacturing industry, but how exactly is a leaf-pencil going to reverse trends like e-readers, Kindle, iPad, etc?

*  Oh, and garner and Edgerton work as a tour guide and a pencil quality-control inspector respectively. Still, they manage to live in a spacious, perfectly-appointed home, as opposed to something more commensurate with their non-skilled jobs, such as, say, a shitbox apartment building that hosts a third-world human-trafficking ring.

* Wait, quality-control at a pencil plant? Yeah, literally he inspects the pencils as they come off the line, because pencils are such precision-crafted implements, right? Yeah, in reality, somebody’s retarded cousin would be doing that job.

* The Greens can seemingly just drop their newly-acquired seven year-old in school without anyone batting an eye. No one questions when he disappears, either. Meanwhile, in the real world, refuse your kid a PlayStation and Child Protective Services storm your house with a SEAL team.

* The kid banters with uncle M. Emmett Walsh like a borscht-belt comedian. Tell me that’s not creepy as hell.

And then Timmy kills M. Emmett with laughter (no, really).

* The kid has a love-interest played by Odeya Rush, who’s about fifteen years-old, and shows up at a pool party in shorts and a tight, half-shirt. Yeah, there’s a real statutory rape vibe going on. Which is, you know, what you expect in a family movie.

* Garner delivers her lines with the same childish inflections she used to better effect in 13 Going On 30. Only, now, since she’s not playing a teenager trapped in an adult’s body, she just seems like she’s suffered a bad cranial injury.

* So, the adoption agency just gives them the little girl and drives away like she was a golden retriever they picked up from the pound. Is that the way adopted kids are really delivered? I mean, don’t you have to sign for those or something? I gotta sign for an order of porn foreign films I get through UPS…

So, that’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Remember: children are wonderful and will fix everything. Well, this one will. But yours probably won’t.

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