There’s a demented undercurrent to many of the best Disney movies, but The Odd Life of Timothy Green is so creepy and anti-magical it calls into question the pathology that created it. Is this really what kids want to watch, or just the product of outrageously solipsistic parents? Unable to conceive, Jim and Cindy (Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner) spend a wine-fueled evening brainstorming about the perfect son they wish they had. They write all their preferred attributes (honest to a fault, capable of scoring the winning goal in soccer) on slips of paper and bury those in the backyard; sure enough, a real boy emerges from the mud. The townspeople accept young Timothy (CJ Adams) with remarkably few questions; he improves all their lives, inspiring an invention that averts mass layoffs at the local pen factory. By the way, Timothy has leaves on his legs. If a boy with foliage-gams can inspire this much joy, the residents conclude, anything is possible.
All of this is recounted in flashback, as Jim and Cindy try to explain to an adoption agent (Shohreh Aghdashloo) why they should be entrusted with a non-fantastical, non-plant-based child. Photographing an ordinary barbecue as if it were a harvest, director Peter Hedges traffics in a disturbingly ’50s, Norman Rockwell-ish vision of all-Americana. The film seems designed less for children than for insecure moms and dads who wish their kids could be this flawless, patient and wise. Leaf Boy is meant to be charming, but it’s the ickiness that stays with you, like contact dermatitis.