Odd Life of Timothy Green, The (US - BD)
Gabe also grows leaves from his legs, but it's just a case of bad hygiene...
Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) are a happily married couple that can’t wait to start a family. Distraught by the news that they are unable to conceive, Cindy and Jim write the characteristics of their ‘dream child’ down on notepaper, put the notes in a box, and bury the box in their backyard. That night, a magical storm gives life to a young boy named Timothy (CJ Adams), who enters their house and announces that he is their new son. Soon enough, Timothy is introduced to the Green family and the rest of the neighbourhood, but the joy of his miraculous appearance is cut short when it is revealed he has mysterious leaves growing from his legs.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green screamed sappy, emotionally manipulative, sentimentality porn from Day One. Its teasers, trailers, TV-spots, even its poster art told audiences exactly what to expect and just enough people bit to make it a couple of bucks at the box office. Some of them even paid a bit extra as their children devolved into blubbering messes. Come next year, the only thing anyone will remember about the movie is that two the cruel/brilliant parents recorded their blubbering spawn after leaving the theatre and had a YouTube hit. Writer/director Peter Hedges is not a name most folks remember, but he’s been making said sentimentality porn for almost two decades now, starting with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. One can forgive What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – it is emotionally manipulative, but it’s well-made and well-acted, and when it was released it wasn’t yet part of a bigger pattern of devious heartstring-plucking. But then Hedges wrote A Map of the World, About a Boy, then wrote and directed Pieces of April and Dan in Real Life, consummating a cycle of shrewdly abusing his audience. The Odd Life of Timothy Green (which was based on an original idea by Frank Zappa’s son Ahmet) fits this mould of insufferable, over-simplified touchy-feely muck and is just competently made enough to be genuinely frustrating.
The film works okay when it’s exploring its fairy tale options. The fantasy aspects are predictable and have all been done better in similar, lightweight, family fare, but occasionally pull the film out of the gutter. There’s a decent reverse- Mary Poppins in the basic idea, but Hedges doesn’t really embrace the possibilities. The more realistic stuff is feel good/feel bad slop, though, and it’s incredibly difficult to get through. Not content to pull emotional strings with his simple fairy tale plot, Hedges man-handles a lifetime of hardships into a short time period. Timothy has girl trouble, Cindy’s father-figure uncle dies, Jim fights against inevitable pencil factory layoffs, et cetera and so forth. There’s even an underdog sports movie thrown into the mix. Then there’s the gratuitous flashback narrative storytelling structure, which is predicated on the assumption that a perfectly charming couple that everyone in the town loves can’t adopt a child without the experience of briefly raising a plant boy (it’s possible this was conceived as a way to soften the inevitable death of the title character by immediately establishing him as no longer in the picture). The performances are good, better than the material. Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton have notable chemistry, specifically the chemistry of a long-term couple, which steers them away from the more simple ‘getting to know you’ chemistry lesser actors are usually handed. The problem is that their chief character traits are that they’re intolerably over-protective and competitive parents. Little CJ Adams is ridiculously darling and rarely veers into obnoxious territory. I’m sure he’ll get something better to do someday.
Shot on 35mm, The Odd Life of Timothy Green comes to Blu-ray in 1.85:1 and full 1080p video. If I were to describe this transfer in a single word, that word would be ‘warm.’ As if the constant stream of emotional manipulation wasn’t obvious enough, Hedges and cinematographer John Toll go out of their way to soften and heat the whole film to exude ultimate sap. If I were to add a second word to the description, it would be ‘contrast,’ because, oh my God, is there a lot of contrast here. The dynamic ranges seem somewhat obvious for the night scenes, but are bizarrely out of place during the perpetually dusk/dawn ‘daylight’ sequences. Seriously, the film’s sunlight always appears to be coming from a specific point on the horizon, even when we’re specifically shown, in cutaway, that the sun is sitting in the center of the sky. This looks ridiculous, but also makes for some nice shadow play for the transfer. The warm, golden base tones are gorgeously supported by lush, natural greens and fire engine reds that pop from the incredibly deep blacks beautifully. Sometimes, the darker sequences get away from Hedges and Toll. Highlights and details are often lost among the hard crush of black. I’m not sure why they chose to take things quite this dark. For the most part the detail levels are consistent, though the soft lighting schemes don’t give way to a lot of harsh textures. The HD capabilities are best spent in sharply separating complex backgrounds and clothing patterns. The limitations of the stock are found in some noticeable edge enhancement and extremely minor grain, but otherwise, the severity of the colour grading would lead me to assume it was shot digital HD, if I didn’t know any better.
This disc features a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. It’s a low-key, family drama mix, but it also has some surprises up its sleeve. Mostly, it’s simply well-layered, giving music, effects, and dialogue a perfect dab of volume without awkwardly overlapping. Among the more impressive bits are the opening credit sequence where the steady hum and clack of a pencil factory blends beautifully with the bouncy music, a really convincing thunderstorm, a nice 360 turn around the title character that gives the ambient nature sounds a swirling directional effect, a poppy underwater sequence, and some noisy crowd scenes. Geoff Zanelli’s soft, feel-good score is precious enough to make you gag, but it’s given a wide range throughout the channels and every instrument is nicely separated among the greater wall of sound. The music is warm, crisp, and features a solid LFE pop and throb when necessary.
The extras begin with a commentary track from director Peter Hedges. A perpetual author, Hedges treats the commentary like a storytelling session, narrating as if he’s reading from a book before a Barnes and Noble signing event. Assuming you can handle this tone-deaf choice, the track is an effective mirror into what was going through the writer/director’s mind as he attempted to create his own version of a Frank Capra movie (he also brings up Field of Dreams and E.T. quite a bit). There’s not a whole lot of focus on the technical aspects (save some advice on working with a large crew), but there’s plenty for a budding screenwriter to learn here – especially from Hedges’ many failures, which he explains thoroughly enough that the audience can easily trace the origin of the problms. Things fall apart a bit when Hedges starts back-patting his cast and crew, and loses focus of his commentary’s pseudo-narrative thrust.
Next up is This is Family (10:10, HD), which takes a brief, sappy look behind the scenes with Hedges, Zappa, and actors Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Ron Livingston, Common, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, and Rosemary DeWitt. There’s a lot of overlap with the commentary here, so you might just want to skip the track altogether if you don’t have a lot of time. The Gift of Music (9:20, HD) is another touchy-feely featurette, this time covering the process of writing and recording Geoff Zanelli’s score and Glen Hansard (who is probably most famous for the Oscar-winning song he wrote for Once), including interviews with Zanelli, Hedges, and Hansard. It’s followed by a music video for Hansard’s song, ‘This Gift’ (4:40, HD), five deleted scenes with optional director’s commentary (5:50, HD), and trailers for other Disney releases.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green rubbed me the wrong way for almost its entire runtime, but it’s not a particularly offensive or badly-made film, so I can understand the appeal. If you’re a fan of excessive emotional manipulation, then this is the movie for you. Everything is shot so dark that the image is occasionally indiscernible, but I can’t really hold that against this 1080p transfer. The DTS-HD MA soundtrack is deceptively top-notch as well, though extras are a bit brief and disappointing.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 4th December 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French and Spanish, DVS 2.0 English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Director Commentary, This is Family, The Gift of Music, Music Video, Deleted/Extended Scenes, Trailers, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Peter Hedges
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, Dianne Wiest, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ron Livingston, David Morse, Common
Length: 2 minutes
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