Disney overdose on the saccharine with this whackado adoption parable.
Odd is right. It's taken them more than a decade, but the Americans have (finally!) decided to remake Jan Švankmajer's 2000 horror-fantasy film, Little Otik, for the strip-mall Surf 'n' Turf set. That film was about a couple who dig up a tree root from their back garden and realise that is vaguely resembles a baby, and so they treat it as such. Then it develops an appetite for living flesh.
This film is the same, but without the living flesh. Directed by Peter Hedges (Dan In Real Life) and written by Frank Zappa's son (sic), The Odd Life Of Timothy Green sees a kooky couple who both work at a pencil manufacturing plant/museum being told that they are unable to conceive a child. Jennifer Garner's Cindy and Joel Egerton's Jim are initially devastated by the news, and the thought of adoption is, for them, some kind of sick joke.
So like most couples in their situation, they decide to write down the traits of their perfect child on post-its, place them into a miniature cedar chest and bury them in the back garden. One freak localised rainstorm later, and CJ Adams' unfeasibly cute Little Man Tate manque, Timothy, finds his way into their house and, very swiftly, their hearts. Aww.
But by strange quirk, Timothy has leaves (sic) growing from his ankles, and every time he does a good deed and makes someone happy, one of the leaves crisps up falls off. It's not too difficult to guess the clammy endgame of this freak disability.
It's hokey and glossy and melodramatic and precision-tooled for people whose top ten films of all time include Forrest Gump twice, but it also sends out weird mixed messages regarding the responsibilities of child rearing. On one hand, the film offers a celebration of parental love and how everyone has the capacity to bring up a child, even if it's not one that they've conceived. On some levels it's very pro-adoption, and it's perhaps laudable on those terms.
Yet the in-built biological countdown element just seems like an entirely crass and unnecessary addition (indeed, there are famous YouTube clips of young children bawling in utter perplexity at the undeserved fate of plucky young Timothy, which says it all really). The pencil factory is faced with closure, but its new product lines and new ways of thinking that help them pull through, just as it does for Cindy and Joe with regard to their spawning impasse.
This Disney live-actioner has been making pre-teen America bawl in their car-seats.
A gooey mess, but not an entirely dislikable one.
A pro-adoption parable with in-built death clock. Just what we were waiting for!