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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service


CJ Adams and Odeya Rush star in "The Odd Life of Timothy Green."
The first thing to understand about "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" (Disney) is that, despite its genuinely wholesome approach, its themes of infertility and death make it unsuitable for younger children.

The film strains not to offend. But even older children may find parts of this fable—in which the enchanted 10-year-old boy of the title (CJ Adams) passes through life leading others by cheerfulness and good example—somewhat puzzling.

Let's put it this way: This film has "Discuss it with your child afterward" written into nearly every scene. There's nothing contrary to, or derogatory of, Christian faith. But there's a mishmash of imagery, since the original story by Ahmet Zappa draws on both Christian and wiccan beliefs—a little too heavily on the wiccan, it must be said, for the comfort of many viewers of faith.

However, there's no indoctrination going on. There's just a lot to think about. And, on the upside, from start to finish, the story celebrates familial love.

Opening scenes show Jim and Cindy Green (Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner) at an adoption agency explaining why they're qualified to become parents. To do so, they first have to explain what has just happened to them, which is where Timothy Green comes in.

Deeply saddened to learn they were infertile, the Greens wrote down all of their ideas about what the perfect child ought to be: Honest to a fault, able to love and be loved, possessing a lively sense of humor, and so on. They then buried the notes in a wooden box in their backyard garden.

That night, there was a heavy rainstorm, and the next morning, the couple discovered a precocious, dirt-covered naked boy, freshly sprung from their garden, exploring their house.

He's just what they hoped to have, except that he has what looks like vine leaves on his shins. (This is the wiccan imagery.) These leaves cannot be cut off.

No problem there: They simply advise him to keep his socks on at all times. And they begin the process of becoming involved and dedicated parents.

Timothy is extremely kind, very patient, very much an outsider among other children and endures suffering in a Christ-like way (thus the Christian analogy).

He is smitten with Joni Jerome (Odeya Rush), a slightly older girl who also feels like an outsider because of a large birthmark. Together, they construct a sort of chapel in the woods with "stained glass" made from colorful autumn leaves (This is the mixed aspect).

It's not a spoiler to disclose that, with the arrival of autumn, Timothy finds that his leaves are deciduous, and knows his time is drawing short. Yet it's made clear that his life has had a purpose.

Writer-director Peter Hedges has a little trouble keeping his sentimental tale on an even keel. The uplifting, break-out-the-hankies ending, though, is likely to appeal to anyone who enjoys a good cry.

The film contains mature themes, some pagan overtones and a single scatological reference. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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