These days, most of Disney’s heartwarming, family-oriented live-action fare ends up on the Disney Channel rather than in theaters, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green is clearly a future Disney Channel staple. This soft, sentimental fable about a magical young boy (the title character, played by CJ Adams) who suddenly appears in the home of a childless couple (Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Garner) traffics in blandly inoffensive platitudes, with little in the way of narrative urgency or meaningful conflict. It’s not quite goofy enough to appeal primarily to kids, but it’s also too simplistic and underdeveloped to grab most adult viewers.
Edgerton and Garner play Jim and Cindy Green, who are devastated that they are unable to conceive a child. When 10-year-old Timothy shows up unexpectedly, they embrace all of the wonders of parenthood, while the beatific child manages to teach each adult he encounters an important life lesson. He even provides the impetus for saving the struggling pencil factory that is the primary employer in the Greens’ ridiculously idyllic small town.
Timothy’s life turns out to be anything but odd; indeed his entire existence is as predictable as can be, and nothing along the way is funny or touching or dramatic enough to make up for the tired storytelling. Writer-director Peter Hedges has made a couple of abysmal movies (Pieces of April, Dan in Real Life) that try to obscure manipulative sentiment with faux-edgy setups, and at least here he just piles on the treacle directly. That doesn’t make it go down much easier, though.