Someday we should hold a contest to see who's better at smiling through tears: Robin Williams or Jennifer Garner. Thanks to "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," it's advantage Garner as a childless woman who magically grows a little boy in her garden. You're picturing her expression right now, aren't you?
Whether you'll wear it yourself while watching this Disney production depends on your tolerance for rays of light, pearls of wisdom, polka dots, moonbeams, etc. Mine is pretty low. Even sweet-natured viewers might find that "Timothy Green" is a little too much syrup to consume in one sitting. Garner and Joel Edgerton ("Warrior") play Cindy and Jim Green, who after years of trying to conceive decide to symbolically bury their hopes in a box in the backyard. After a nourishing rainstorm, they discover Timothy (CJ Adams, very adorable), a mostly normal 10-year-old except for the leaves sprouting from his shins. He's everything the Greens jotted on their wish list, though he doesn't always behave as expected.
What is Timothy supposed to be, exactly? He's clearly been sent to repair rifts (David Morse and Rosemarie DeWitt play flawed family members) and brighten lives (Odeya Rush is impressive as a local misfit). For the Greens, who are considering adoption, Timothy is a sort of practice child -- an interesting but slightly weird notion. Director Peter Hedges ("Dan in Real Life") and his co-writer, Ahmet Zappa (yes, Frank's son), waver between fairy tale and real-world drama, but the tones never harmonize.
"Timothy Green" also piles the whimsy a mile high: The Greens' small town is supported entirely by a pencil factory (Ron Livingston and Dianne Wiest play the bosses) falling on hard times. Looks like Timothy has been sent to save the pencil industry, too.
PLOT A childless couple makes a wish that magically comes true.
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE Lots of syrupy symbolism in this Disney weeper, but its basic story about the depths of parental love feels well intentioned.