‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green’ Review: Comic Fantasy Doesn’t Get Too Gooey

Director Peter Hedges keeps the low-key and heartfelt family tale "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" from tipping into treacle

Parents have been known to tell their young kids to make sure to wash between their toes at bath time or they might start sprouting plants amid all the grime.

“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” will only help these parents. This is a movie about a boy who has delicate green leaves growing from his ankles and feet.

It’s not due to a lack of soap or scrubbing. Rather, it’s magic; Timothy Green was born that way.

Yes, we’re in the Land of Whimsy with “Odd Life,” which can be delicate and often dodgy territory for a filmmaker. Director-screenwriter Peter Hedges (“Dan in Real Life”) is to be congratulated for nearly pulling it off in this gentle comic fantasy.

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Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton), a married couple living in a small Midwestern town, are applying to adopt a child at the start of the film. They explain to the adoption agency social workers that they feel ready to adopt because of their experiences with Timothy (C.J. Adams), and then they begin telling his strange tale.

To whit, after learning they couldn’t have kids, the Greens wrote down all the qualities they’d want in a child, put the slips of paper in a box and buried the box in the backyard. That night, during an unexpected and ferocious thunderstorm, the box popped out of the ground and a young, mud-covered boy appeared in their house. Cindy and Jim take him in, name him Timothy and treat him as a son. They also make sure that he always wears high socks so that no one can discover the foliage sprouting from his lower limbs.

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So far, so good. It’s at this point that the movie has to rev up a plot, manufacture conflict and try to draw meaning from everything that happens. That’s when the strains in this slender tale begin to show and one’s tolerance for whimsy is tested.

That said, as family films go this is low-key, heartfelt and mostly not too gooey. And there’s not a single chase scene or over-the-top scary villain, which is, in itself, refreshing when so many kids’ films these days play like training movies to turn younger viewers into adult action and comic book movie fans.

Garner and Edgerton make for model parents, showing understanding and patience. Neither actor’s low-key but convincing work here is likely to turn up in a career highlights reel, but both performances effectively serve the film.

Disney is smart to release “Odd Life” in August, when families are slowing it down while on vacation or looking for a break from back-to-school shopping. It’s a feel-good film (with a few moments of feel sad) that delivers sweetness without tipping over into treacle.