(director/writer: Peter Hedges; screenwriter: based on a story by Ahmet Zappa; cinematographer: John Toll ; editor: Andrew Mondshein; music: Geoff Zanelli; cast: Jennifer Garner (Cindy Green), Joel Edgerton (Jim Green), Dianne Wiest (Bernice Crudstaff), C J Adams (Timothy Green), Rosemarie DeWitt (Brenda Best), Ron Livingston (Franklin Crudstaff), M. Emmet Walsh (Uncle Bub), Odeya Rush (Joni Jerome), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Reggie Marks), Lois Smith (Aunt Mel), David Morse (James Green Sr.), Common (Coach Cal), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Adoption head); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Scott Sanders/Jim Whitaker; Walt Disney Pictures; 2012)

The well-intentioned fantasy pic delivers heavy-handed unbearable obvious Hallmark Card messages about tolerance.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A mushy load of crap Disney family entertainment adult fairy tale film that’s unconvincingly directed and written by the mediocre filmmaker Peter Hedges (“Pieces of April”/”Dan in Real Life”), and is based on a story by Ahmet Zappa. The well-intentioned fantasy pic delivers heavy-handed unbearable obvious Hallmark Card messages about tolerance, for parents to accept with love their children for what they are and to allow others to be different. The pic has an odd conceit of a childless couple who plant in their garden a box with a wish list for qualities they would want their child to have and out of the green the Green’s gain by magic an artistically gifted well-mannered guileless innocent boy that sprouts up from their garden. This far-fetched premise is odd, but that doesn’t make it interesting. Things are not helped by the pic being executed in such a lumbering and clunky manner, and with the supposedly good parents actually being so self-absorbed and concerned mostly with showing-off that their adopted child is a winner that I found them to be irritating and only questionable as parents.

The story is framed around a happily married childless couple, Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton), in the serene pencil factory town of Stanleyville, where hubby is a longtime assembly-line pencil factory worker and wifey a tour guide in the local pencil museum. The anxious couple, told by their family doctor that it’s not possible for them to conceive a child, are being interviewed by an adoption agency head (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and to state why they would make good parents tell about their recent unbelievable experiences with a magical 10-year-old child named Timothy (C J Adams), who suddenly appeared with permanently attached leaves to his ankles and covered in mud, in their home one rainy night, and became the ideal son they always wanted.Though baffled by how he mysteriously arrived and that it rained only on their property, they accept the boy without questions immediately after he calls them mom and dad and quickly integrate him into their family life and community.

It’s a bore to follow the adventures of the other-world kid and his cloying Middle America middle-class folks, as it has subplots about an oily boss (Ron Livingston); the boss’s nasty aunt (Dianne Wiest), who is boss of the local pencil museum; another loner mystery child (Odeya Rush) who befriends Timothy and seems to exist without parents, and is one of the few in the pic that actually resembles a good person; the rivalry between Cindy and her over-achieving sharp-tongued snobby sister (Rosemarie DeWitt); Jim revisiting his emotionless father (David Morse), who he blames for not supporting him when he was bullied as a child; the insensitive soccer coach (Common), the looming possibility that the factory will close and a few other dull subplots that never amount to much.

The film plays more like a concept presented to money backers than a fully realized film that makes sense and is coherent.I would write this one off as a harmless inane film about the imagination that lacks any imagination that would give it any sort of edginess.A bad job by the filmmakers.