Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.
USA, 2012. Monsterfoot Productions, Scott Sanders Productions, Walt Disney Pictures. Story by Ahmet Zappa, Screenplay by Peter Hedges. Cinematography by John Toll. Produced by Scott Sanders, James Whitaker, Ahmet Zappa. Music by Geoff Zanelli. Production Design by Wynn Thomas. Costume Design by Susie DeSanto. Film Editing by Andrew Mondshein. North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2012. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2012.
A childless couple (Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Garner) are told by their doctor that there is no hope that they will ever conceive despite all the medical interventions they have attempted. In their grief and disappointment, the pair imagine out loud the perfect child they dream of having, one who has great aptitude for sports, the arts and making friends. They write these expectations down and put them in a box that they bury in their garden, which induces a magic rainfall that then produces, from the ground, an eight year-old boy named Timothy Green. At first surprised to find a naked, muddy pre-adolescent running through their house, the duo eventually grow to love Timothy as their own and hope their neighbours and families don’t ask too many questions about the leaves that grow on his ankles. Goodness knows the audience has plenty of questions: where is the line between family-friendly cuddly and magic realism that this film wants to ride? Why is he being treated like he has superpowers when really all he has is organic foliage attached to his body? Timothy is sometimes fully aware of his status as a child of the earth, at others seems to be a newcomer at dealing with the human race. He was created based on expectations that he rarely fulfills, and we as an audience never know if we should count on him to be amazing or love him for his imperfections. His parents, meanwhile, are supposedly on a quest to learn how to become worthy parents but spend the entire movie using this kid to get back at their judgmental family members (an overbearing father and snobby sister among them), usually to the point that they ignore their son. Then there’s a strange subplot about revolutionizing the pencil industry that is just one of the many jarring, uncomfortable elements of this bizarre box office bomb, one whose excellent cast is hopeless to save.