It’s funny to think that at one time Jennifer Garner was an action star. She made a splash playing agent Sydney Bristow on JJ Abram’s seminal series “Alias,” a role which some have called the most important female TV character after Scully and Buffy (and by some, of course I mean, me). “Alias” aired five action packed seasons, and during that time Garner also portrayed DC Universe badass Elektra in first “Daredevil,” then later her own feature, appropriately titled, “Elektra.” While neither of those movies rank too highly among the now heavily populated pantheon of comic book movies, they still contributed to the sense that Garner was a lady who could hold her own in a fight.
But that was a long time ago. Since those days, she’s played a lot of moms, just like her character in “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” recently released on DVD and Blu-Ray. We can only speculate as to why her career has taken this turn, perhaps having a family of her own has inspired her to play that part professionally as well? Whatever it is that made her hang up her thowing knives and retire her kung fu is apparently contagious because she’s coupled with Joel Edgerton for this movie, and he was previously seen in fight-heavy “Warrior” and “The Thing” remake. Maybe we chalk it up to the ubiquitous power of Disney?
Regardless of why these two decided to acquiesce to the call of the family film, they certainly committed to the schmaltz in a big way for “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” a sweet movie with a lot of heart (maybe a tish bit too much heart, even).
Timothy Green is a kid who’s a little different. His parents, played by the afore mentioned Garner and Edgerton, literally wish him into being. Unable to conceive a biological child of their own, the two ease their pain by imagining who their child might be and what he might be like. A touch of movie magic later, and Timothy pops out of the garden, like a daisy. Or, perhaps a more verdant species of plant, as we discover Timothy’s legs have green, leafy sprouts. He touches lives and teaches lessons in his small town, and along the way he shows his ersatz parents what it means to be a family. The catch is his little leg leaves operate under the same rules as actual foliage–hence, they brown and fall off with time. You get the idea.
The film, under the Disney banner, is predictably well-built. The action is beautifully photographed by director Peter Hedges, known more recently for the Steve Carell vehicle, “Dan in Real Life,” though he also brought us cult favorite of the 90’s, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” starring a young Johnny Depp and an even younger Leonardo DiCaprio. The acting is on point: Jennifer Garner is a sunbeam, Joel Edgerton is affable, and the pair are surrounded by a supporting cast performing admirably. Indeed, David Morse, Ron Livingston and Dianne Wiest hold down small but important roles. And, of course, CJ Adams as the titular Timothy is solid, with minimal child actor tics or cutesy affectations. The other featured child actor in the film, Odeya Rush, is also quite strong and, I predict, a young actress to keep an eye on.
Overall, it’s a solid family film, and some of the whimsy is a lot of fun for kids and adults. The shtick is pretty strange, I’m not sure if I was able to get completely lost in the fantasy of it enough to truly buy the whole package. As I mentioned earlier, the movie feels heavy on the heart, and maybe just the slightest bit light on meaning or depth. And parents beware, the ending is a total tear jerker–I defy anyone to make it through the end of that movie and not need a hug from a soft, stuffed (or real) animal. Admirable ideas about family, about what constitutes a family, are present and appreciated, and certainly this close to Christmas, everyone can enjoy a film which proposes love is all you need to tie yourself together and call yourself, ‘family.’
But is too much to ask that Jennifer Garner unharness her killer guns again and throw her “Alias” fans a bone?
Blu-Ray and DVD extras include an extended look at filming and behind the scenes featurette about the Glen Hansard song in the film. Find out more about Timothy Green, including how to see the film for yourself, at Disney’s website: http://disney.go.com/the-odd-life-of-timothy-green/index.html
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