Two Young People, Two Very Different Lives in 'Timothy Green' and 'Sparkle'
August 20, 2012
Two Young People, Two Very Different Lives in 'Timothy Green' and 'Sparkle'

Julie Samrick
Kid Focused

"Timothy Green" is a Slower, Simpler E.T.

Remember Cabbage Patch Kids?  Those odd little dolls were all the rage for little girls in the 1980s.  They each came with adoption papers, a birth certificate, and a composite of their hobbies, unique strengths, and even personality traits.  What that little piece of parchment paper revealed was as exciting as the dolls themselves.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a tale told from the point of view of married couple Jim and Cindy Green (played by Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner).  It begins with their sadness over not being able to conceive. And in Jim's last ditch effort to keep his wife's spirits lifted, he rattles off a list of qualities that their imaginary child would have, hoping, believing them to be true.

The Greens plant these traits in their garden that night, encapsulating their dreams in a little box, only to wake up to find a fully sprouted 10-year-old boy of their own.

The rest of the story unfolds in the same fashion as stories like E.T., or the 1990s film, Powder.  The new additions are odd, definitely otherworldly, yet ultimately more compassionate than most of the humans they're around.

The movie is sweet, but not as funny as E.T., as it plods along. It is also weirdly outdated. I thought for sure it had been based on a novel from 30 or more years ago and needed updating, but it's actually an original screenplay.  From the old-fashioned way all the kids dress and what they like to do in their spare time (ride big-handled bikes around town), to not a single mention of the challenges technology presents for young people today, opportunities were missed to contrast Timothy's simple ways to a fast-paced, modern world. Besides pressure to perform well in sports, Timothy's situations are not authentic to 21st century kids.

The film is rated PG for its emotional issues like death, infertility, and adult sibling and parent dynamics. Still, the movie is fine for viewers over 8.   Kids that age and older will leave with the message that being yourself is perfectly enough. One of the other stronger themes of the movie is that sometimes the most meaningful relationships aren't bound by blood.

"Sparkle" Shines and Shows Plenty of Rough Patches Too

It's 1968 in Detroit, the heart of Motown, and every young girl wants to be the next Aretha or Diana Ross.  Sparkle is about a new generation's passion for the music at that time, centering on three sisters who moonlight as a girl group away from their protective mother's (Whitney Houston) watchful eye.
In a perfect first movie role for the 2007 American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks plays Sparkle, the youngest sister in a family of all women.  She is coming of age, trying to find balance between respecting her mother's wishes while still following her own dreams. Sparkle is the sweetest and most supportive of the sisters as well as the brainy songwriter behind the sister act.  She must decide whether or not she'd like to shine in the spotlight too.
While the film has complex characters and even deeper family dynamics, great music is at the movie's heart, with many original songs written for its score. It's worth it just to see Houston give one powerful, show-stopping church choir performance in her last onscreen role.
The PG-13 rating comes with escalating heavy material that shouldn't be seen by younger children. While the beginning of Sparkle is tame, there are eventually scenes showing drug use and domestic violence. The scenes with drug use aren't glorified, but shown in the light of how talented people can so easily waste their dreams.
In one eerie scene, Houston asks her daughters, "Wasn't I enough of a cautionary tale to you?," to dissuade them from going into show business.  Parents can discuss the movie's message with older teens as well as Houston's real life tragic downfall all at once.
There are also some provocative outfits and singing performances.
Although she is a good role model throughout, I was disappointed in Jordin Sparks' main character when she gives in at the very end by dressing in an extremely revealing dress that she wouldn't normally wear.
With parental guidance, high school aged kids (no younger) will get a lot out of Sparkle.  They will see what fierce family loyalty looks like and why even young adults still need house rules.  It will also be interesting for them to see what it was like to live in a different time - like when a traditional marriage proposal was the only way for a young man to show his good intentions and get the girl.

Julie Samrick
is a stay-at-home mom of 4 young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues.  Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too.  Permission granted for use on

Posted by Staff at 7:00 AM