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The Odd Life of Timothy Green Blu-ray + DVD Review

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012) movie poster The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Theatrical Release: August 15, 2012 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Peter Hedges / Writers: Peter Hedges (screenplay), Ahmet Zappa (story)

Cast: Jennifer Garner (Cindy Green), Joel Edgerton (Jim Green), CJ Adams (Timothy Green), Odeya Rush (Joni Jerome), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Evette Onat), Rosemarie DeWitt (Brenda Best), David Morse (James "Big Jim" Green, Sr.), M. Emmet Walsh (Uncle Bub), Lois Smith (Aunt Mel), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Reggie), Dianne Wiest (Ms. Bernice Crudstaff), Ron Livingston (Franklin Crudstaff), James Rebhorn (Joseph Crudstaff), Common (Coach Cal), Michael Arden (Doug Wert), Rhoda Griffis (Doctor Lesley Hunt)

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Under the management of Bob Iger, the Walt Disney Studios has devolved into a series of brands: Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Marvel, DreamWorks/Touchstone Pictures,
and now the newly-acquired LucasFilm. With all of these banners covering most of the Mouse's output, there has been almost no room for just plain old live-action Disney movies. Last year saw only John Carter, a Bruckheimer-esque tentpole made by Pixar crew, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Here was an anomaly: a film with no franchise, merchandising, or parks potential. Not a tentpole, but a medium-sized standalone film released in the historically soft final lap of the summer season.

It's too bad that great success and acclaim eluded the one 2012 release that painted Disney as not just a global merchandiser but a film studio. Alas, Timothy Green didn't deserve favorable recognition from either critics or moviegoers, the latter of whom gave it enough good word of mouth to generate a leggy, nearly profitable run.

Timothy Green (CJ Adams) basks in the sunlight of a soccer game while his parents (Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner) cheer him on.

The film opens with affluent, attractive married couple Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) at an adoption agency, where they wish to explain their qualifications not on an application form but in a feature-length story. The thirtysomethings appear to have a comfortable existence in the storybook town of Stanleyville, USA. Like many of their neighbors, Cindy and Jim work in pencils; she is a curator at the pencil museum and he works at the pencil factory. There is a hole in their lives they wish to fill with a child, but they are infertile and after years of costly efforts, are reluctantly ready to throw in the towel. Not before, however, one wine-fueled night in which they commit their some would say excessive parental desires to paper, which they put in a small box and bury in their front lawn.

During the stormy night, they are startled by the sudden presence of a dirty little home invader (CJ Adams) around the age of ten who gives his name as Timothy. That was the only boy's name on the Greens' list of baby names and they take that for more than mere coincidence. Jim dutifully calls the police, but doesn't complete the call. The couple quickly comes to believe that Timothy is the answer to their prayers and they go along with his decision to call them Mom and Dad, passing him off as their adopted son.

Timothy is a sweet boy, ordinary in most ways but one who has unclippable leaves growing out of his lower legs. His plant-like nature and garden origins otherwise only reveal themselves in the way he basks in the sunlight. He acquaints himself with the world in high socks shrouding his secret and oversized clothing meant to be adorable. Unsurprisingly, he's a little different, as he becomes familiar with small talk, dodgeball, and the like. He also starts checking off all the hopes and dreams his instantly loving parents had drawn up for him, while secretly shedding his leaves as part of an inevitable destination that provoked the traumatized children's reaction of this spoilerific viral video viewed over 3 million times.

Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim (Joel Edgerton) recount the unusual experience that qualifies them for adoptive parenthood. Timothy Green (CJ Adams) is a pure-hearted miracle plant boy.

Conceived by Ahmet Zappa (son of musician Frank) and scripted and directed by Peter Hedges, this film is an affront to good taste in basically everything it does. It thinks of itself as Timothy: a cute, tender, heartwarming, wholly good-natured miracle who lifts the spirits of everyone who sees him. The film is literally none of those things and I hope it doesn't fool you into thinking otherwise.
Treacly, maudlin, and manipulative, Timothy Green is so full of itself and interested in generating charm that it doesn't even realize the creepy nature of the premise it asks you to get on board with or the numerous ways in which it insults and offends (e.g. its treatment of adoption).

Clearly, Zappa and Hedges think they are making this cute celebration of the joys of parenting a young child. They are promoting a fantasy, with heroes like Timothy, who doesn't have a contrarian bone, in his body and his parents, whose poor judgment is played for laughs as they recount their tale to a much too receptive and patient adoption agent (Shohreh Aghdashloo). The movie alternates between comedy and melodrama, failing miserably at both.

Hedges' previous outing as writer-director, the Steve Carell Touchstone dramedy Dan in Real Life, disappointed in similar ways, but this one goes much further, outraging with its smug depictions of factory layoffs, young romance, stock villains, and familial strain. It's hard to believe that this is the same Hedges who helped adapt Nick Hornby's About a Boy into such a satisfying, authentic, life-affirming film and wrote the highly-regarded What's Eating Gilbert Grape and its source novel. Venturing deeper into the mainstream, Hedges has lost most of his artistic credibility.

A movie like Timothy Green will play best with adults who generally don't see movies and therefore won't find it as easy to spot the tacky tricks and cookie-cutter tropes of such sentimental storytelling. This adds to the bad rap that live-action family films often get, offending more than plainly lowbrow and commercial enterprises (like the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies) that make no attempt to touch your heart and make you cry.

The frustration is increased for someone with four shelves devoted to live-action Disney movies who recognizes this undervalued tradition that dates back over sixty years won't be growing in stature or volume anytime soon. There used to be more than a dozen of varied productions released each year. This year, we get two big budget tentpoles (Oz: The Great and Powerful and Bruckheimer's The Lone Ranger) and the probably disappointing, uncharacteristically awards-baity Saving Mr. Banks starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers. While Timothy Green doesn't make a strong case for mid-sized, non-franchisable films, those who think of Disney as not just a brand but a movie studio have to be disappointed with the way the company has changed its priorities in recent years.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green Blu-ray + DVD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.85:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround (Descriptive Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Most Extras Subtitled; DVD Movie and Some Extras Closed Captioned
Release Date: December 4, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Picture and sound are among the two places where this cannot be faulted. The Blu-ray boasts a sharp, vibrant, spotless 1.85:1 widescreen transfer and lively 5.1 DTS-HD master audio.

Director Peter Hedges smiles at the sight of his words coming to life in the making-of featurette "This Is Family." Glen Hansard pours himself into the "This Gift" music video.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with "This Is Family" (10:12), a making-of featurette that has cast and crew lob praise at each other and speak highly of the project and their experiences on it.
They at least admit that the unfortunate improvised "Low Rider" performance was just as awkward for them as it is for us.

"The Gift of Music" (9:15) discusses the film's score and original song, with remarks from director Peter Hedges, composer Geoff Zanelli and singer/songwriter Glen Hansard.

The music video for "This Gift" (4:41) performed by Glen Hansard featuring Marketa Irglova and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus alternates between clips from the movie and clips of the Irish Once star passionately singing and playing piano on a leafy, moodily colorful set.

Writer-director Peter Hedges provides an audio commentary on the film. He immediately annoys likening his film to E.T., Field of Dreams, Big, and It's a Wonderful Life. Beyond that, his screen-specific remarks touch upon editing tricks, visual effects, camera moves, filming locations and conditions, his collaborators, and the production design. If you can endure the movie a second time, it's not too bad a listen, but I don't think Hedges deserves to have the forum to himself.

Oh for funny: Timothy Green rakes in this deleted scene. Raking leaves and he's got leaves on his legs! Polaroids of precious moments fall on the golden DVD main menu.

Finally, five deleted scenes (5:46) are presented with optional Hedges commentary explaining a structural choice made in the editing stage. They include a couple of exchanges with the Greens' neighbor (Gene Jones),
two more moments with their botanist friend (Lin-Manuel Miranda), and a funeral reception.

A digital copy primer (1:04), which doesn't apply to this set, and the deceptive "Info" round out the disc.

The DVD only includes the music video and deleted scenes.

The discs open with trailers for Oz: The Great and Powerful and Finding Nemo. To them, the Sneak Peeks listing adds promos for Disney Movie Rewards, ABC Family's "Bunheads", Frankenweenie, Peter Pan: Diamond Edition, and The Muppet Movie: The Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray. As usual, Timothy Green's own trailer is unfortunately missing.

The sappy menu drops film still polaroids and leaves in front of sun-kissed trees. The Blu-ray doesn't resume playback or support bookmarks.

The side-snapped Blu-ray case includes inserts for Disney Movie Rewards and the Disney Movie Club. It is topped by a cardboard slipcover which embosses Timothy's prominent legs.

The boy's got leaves on his legs. Leaves, I tell ya!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Odd Life of Timothy Green must rank among last year's most publically recommended films, but I cannot in good faith add my voice to the chorus of admirers. This schmaltzy, saccharine tearjerker shows a flagrant lack of tact in its overdramatic, supposedly heartwarming fable.

Disney's Blu-ray combo supplies the expected high quality picture and sound, but only a few extras and almost none of them on DVD. Regardless, I encourage you to avoid this film.

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Related Reviews:
New: Finding Nemo Here Comes the Boom Celeste & Jesse Forever Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days The Words
Written and Directed by Peter Hedges: Dan in Real Life | Joel Edgerton: Animal Kingdom Kinky Boots King Arthur
Jennifer Garner: Juno Butter Arthur (2011) Ghosts of Girlfriends Past Catch Me If You Can
Martian Child Phenomenon Flipped Orphan The Game Plan A Thousand Words Meet the Robinsons People Like Us
Recent Live-Action Disney Films: John Carter The Muppets Prom Bridge to Terabithia

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Reviewed February 11, 2013.



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