Disney Celebrates Adoption: Review of The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Disney Celebrates Adoption: Review of The Odd Life of Timothy Green August 17, 2012

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine for parents go down in the new film The Odd Life of Timothy Green in theaters nationwide Friday, August 17.  Yes, it’s predictable. Yes, it’s sweet and a little sappy. But it also celebrates adoption as it calls us – with typical Disney magic — to love and be loved.

Yes, there’s magic. Think Mary Poppins meets Field of Dreams. It’s a Disney movie in the vein of The Kid and The Rookie that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality – it is Disney, after all. But it also makes you ponder what life’s really all about. And it does so with an emphasis on the beauty and magic of adoption.

Adoption frames the telling of the story as we first meet the Greens, a young couple struggling with the pain of infertility. They share their magical tale as part of a hearing to review their fitness to adopt. Their one-word explanation on their paperwork  for their desire to adopt? Timothy.

A Caution to Parents

A word of warning to parents. Although the film contains nothing that I as a Christian father found objectionable for families – no profanity, nudity, sexual content, or any of the usual list of vices from Hollywood – it does deal with some pretty emotionally mature topics. Infertility, the passing of an aged loved one, and the unexpected departure of children – be ready to answer questions about them all or dry some tears on these topics as needed. I’d suggest it only for pre-teen and older.

Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that gardening lovers will appreciate the magical scene that results from a Disney-esque “blue sky” session. “Wind’s in the East.” Rain’s in the field. And suddenly, the Greens are plunked down into the middle of parenthood – with a lot of explaining to do.

The fairly predictable if touching plot touches on broader life lessons of being tolerant of others who are different, the hazards of chasing — and of not chasing — your dreams,  and the risk of being real with those around you.

Lot’s of people hate anything different.

You can likely guess what makes Timothy different from the promotional posters. There are valuable reminders throughout about questioning stereotypes and getting in touch with what matters most.

Exposing the Problems

But the film has its greatest value in reinforcing the reality that there are parents in this world who need to love kids – and can’t. And there are kids in this world who want – and need – parents to love them.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green brings value to the conversation not just for the heartwarming and positive portrayal of adoption (without giving away too much of the ending) but also for the anti-adoption prejudices it dares to expose. Comments from relatives of the Greens echo those heard far too often by families who are contemplating adoption or have already adopted a child:

“I thought you were trying to have a real kid – like one of your own.” And the oh-so-kind, “These kids have problems….” In truth, the film well portrays that it is the ones making such comments that have the real problems.

The only quibble I had with the message of the film was that each time Timothy helped someone see who they were – who they could be – he gave a piece of himself away. Certainly, it’s Biblical that helping others always requires us to give of ourselves. As Timothy puts it, “It’s what you do with gifts.”

Nevertheless, I winced at the message that using ones’ gifts is a zero-sum scenario wherein one person must always lose for another to gain. Jesus taught the opposite: it is in giving our life away, that we find it. By letting go of ourselves, we gain the world. It’s a relatively small point and not one to distract from the core message that everyone needs to love and be loved. Especially every child waiting for adoption.

My suggestion: Don’t make a special trip to the theater for this one unless the topic of adoption resonates with you at this stage of life – or you need a good cry. You’ve seen this plot before under different names. If you must go to the theater anyways, it’s worth choosing this moving and wholesome film instead of seeing someone blown to pieces. Otherwise, wait until it comes out on DVD and then screen it before sharing with your children. Watch it again every so often to remind you of what matters most.

Have some tissues handy. You’ll need them.

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