Recently, I was invited to a screening of The Odd Life of Timothy Green at Disney’s studios. It took me a little while to get together everything I wanted to say about the movie. The following might contain spoilers, I can’t say for sure since I don’t really know what constitutes a spoiler.
Five minutes into The Odd Life of Timothy Green, I knew how I was going to react to the movie. I didn’t know how it would happen, that’s the fun part of watching the movie, but the inevitable emotional impact was kind of obvious. Actually, that much is apparent by the title of the movie, and probably some of the trailers. I didn’t think about this, though, when Carlos and I headed to a screening room on the Disney lot and I forgot to stick Kleenex in my handbag.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is in the grand tradition of Disney tearjerkers. Think of Bambi, Old Yeller and Pollyanna. It will spark memories of your childhood in a way that only Disney can. Remember that time your dad came into the family room, remote control in hand, and said, “Hey, kids, Old Yeller is on TV. You have to watch this”? Remember how you tried really hard to keep the tears at bay because it never occurred to you that only the most heartless, canine-hating child can get through Old Yeller without crying? Yeah, it sparks those kind of memories, even if no one has to put down a dog at the end.
There’s a weird culture surrounding the tearjerker. These moves are made to elicit a very heavy, emotional response from the audience, but, there’s also a stigma that comes with showing that level of emotion. Tears are things you don’t want to show a roomful of strangers, even if the room is pitch black and especially if the work is fiction. These are things reserved for real life events: birth, death, marriage and, possibly, gold medals and Mars rover landings. However, the “No, really, it’s just an allergy attack” reaction is one of the highest compliments you can pay an artist. You’re telling them that they absolutely struck a powerful emotional chord. With this movie, I can safely say that writer/director Peter Hedges (who wrote What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) and the rest of the Odd Life team did a stellar job.
There’s an art to the tearjerker and, back in the day, Disney mastered that with enough moments of pure joy in their films to counteract the saddest moments. The same can be said for The Odd Life of Timothy Green, where Pollyanna-style optimism mixes with magical realism. The message here is simple, take time to enjoy the little moments and never lose hope.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is quite the opposite of a lot of what’s popular at the box office these days. Where the most popular movies focus on big, booming action, Odd Life zooms in on the quiet beauty of daily life and subtle doses of magic. It’s simultaneously ethereal and down-to-earth. I absolutely recommended check out the movie, just don’t forget the Kleenex.