Reel Critics: 'Timothy Green' dispenses wisdom with mush

Disney delivers a very sweet but very odd family film in "The Odd Life of Timothy Green."

The strange premise begins with a young married couple who yearn to be parents but cannot have children. Their prayers are answered when a fully formed 10-year-old boy sprouts up from their vegetable garden after a magic rainstorm. Leaves grow from veins in his legs.

Of course, all sense of reality has to be abandoned at this early point in the story. Somehow the miracle child is enrolled in school. He is smart, kind, honest and precocious in every way.

The adults seem goofy in comparison. They appear to be in need of the wise guidance dispensed by the nature boy. But the life lessons come with a good measure of sadness and only a few laughs.

Family values are on parade in lock step. One good quality after another is demonstrated by the Great Kid from fantasy land. The mushy sentiment will appeal to some and not others. It's all wholesome stuff that's soft in the heart but also soft in the brain.


Whitney has 'Sparkle' in last film

Before "Dreamgirls" there was "Sparkle," a less-flashy tale of an R&B; girl group trying to make it big.

This remake of the 1976 movie stars Jordin Sparks in the title role. With older siblings Sister (Carmen Ejogo) and Dee (Tika Sumpter), they form a Supremes-like trio with increasingly vamped-up costumes and routines — on a tiny budget and without their stern mother's knowledge. No, really.

Trouble starts when Sister pairs up with a no-good comedian (Mike Epps) who gets her banished from her mother Emma's house.

Whitney Houston, in her last film, is a commanding presence. Playing a woman whose promising singing career was ruined by substance abuse and the wrong men, comparisons with Houston's own life are inevitable and poignant.

Houston sings one song, a gospel standard, and you notice the voice has lost some zing and is a bit hoarse. Yet it still packs an emotional wallop.

Sparks is pretty, with vocals stronger than her acting skills. She is outshone on all counts by Ejogo as the sultry, troubled Sister.

"Sparkle" has a corny, absurd Hollywood finale that still makes you smile. And for a movie about music, it's a shame more of Curtis Mayfield's original soundtrack was not put to use here.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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