It doesn't get much more all-American or old-fashioned than Stanleyville, the fictional setting of "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," opening in theaters today.
It's the pencil-making capital of the world and a town with 5,213 residents, until Timothy's mysterious, magical arrival. He comes into the lives of Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) at a low point in their marriage.
3 stars = Good
- Starring: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams.
- Rating: PG for mild thematic elements and brief language.
They have been trying, for many years and at great expense, to have a child, without any success. But they long dreamed about what their son or daughter would be like -- he or she would never give up, have Cindy's heart, an uncle's quirky sense of humor, be honest to a fault, score a winning goal in a big game, and the list goes on.
They write all of this down, tuck the sheets of paper into a wooden box and bury it in their garden with their hopes. But it turns out they unwittingly planted their formula for an instant offspring, and the wind stirs, the rain blows, the ground heaves and seems to deliver a boy named Timothy to them.
All of a sudden, they are a mom and dad, and Timothy -- a 10-year-old with leaves literally sprouting from his legs -- is theirs. "It was all very sudden and miraculous," Cindy accurately tells her relatives. Her sister (Rosemarie DeWitt), who fancies that she has the perfect children, says, "I thought you were trying to have a real kid. I mean one of your own."
Like any child, biological or adopted, he is their own, just one of the fantasy's insights about preparations for parenthood, expectations for children, bullying and how "it's a hard world to be different in," but it's OK to be unusual or even a little weird.
The modern-day fairy tale features Ms. Garner, a real-life mother of three, and Mr. Edgerton (the teacher who turns to mixed martial arts in "Warrior") at their warmest and wisest, and they make a convincing film family with young CJ Adams as Timothy. Until now, his claim to fame had been a small role in "Dan in Real Life" as Steve Carell's nephew. He has the ability to come across as a bit of an alien or oddball, which is what the part requires.
The prospect of living happily ever after doesn't come in the way you might expect. Director-writer Peter Hedges invites the audience to fall in love with the family he creates and then offers an alternate scenario in which moviegoers aren't as emotionally invested.
It's sweet and, as promised, odd and suggests "having one of your own" can happen in many wondrous ways.