Home > Reviews > THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN – Geoff Zanelli


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A couple of years ago I wrote a review of the soundtrack for the film Gamer, by Geoff Zanelli and Robb Williamson, in which I posted my now-famous ‘polar bear with a migraine’ photo, and basically called it was one of the worst film scores I have ever heard in my life. Despite hating the music for that particular film, I was very careful not to criticize the composer himself, who was clearly providing exactly what the director and producer of that film wanted in terms music – which just happened to be music I cannot tolerate. A lot of us tend to forget, myself included sometimes, that a film composer’s primary motivation is to support with music the director’s vision of the film being made, and any secondary life the music takes on apart from the film is entirely inconsequential to the reason the music exists in the first place. A composer might be asked to write grating and grinding electronics for one film, as Zanelli was on Gamer, and a less-experienced critic might call him a hack, or whatever other derogatory terms spring to mind. But all composers, by necessity, have to be versatile, and Geoff Zanelli’s versatility and talent is highlighted by his work on The Odd Life of Timothy Green, a film score at the other end of the musical spectrum from Gamer as it is possible to be.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a whimsical family drama directed by Peter Hedges and starring Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as Cindy and Jim Green, a childless couple who dream of having a family of their own. After a night of drinking, having finally reconciled themselves to the fact that they will likely never have children, Cindy and Jim play a game where they write down all the qualities they would have wanted in a child, put the pieces of paper in a box, and bury the box in their back garden. Magically, the following morning, a young boy calling himself Timothy appears in their kitchen, covered with soil, and possessing all the qualities the Greens wrote down. But there is more to Timothy than meets the eye…

Geoff Zanelli’s score for The Odd Life of Timothy Green is orchestral, light, sweet and charming, a world away from the eardrum-bleeding industrial nightmare of Gamer. The word I keep returning to when I listen to this score is ‘homespun’; it has a sense of warmth to its sound that speaks to family, friendship, a simple life filled with simple gifts, which I suppose is the idea. Piano, strings, an accordion, and country-flavored textures typify cues such as the opening “You’re Gonna Find It Hard to Believe”, and its thematic recapitulation in “Now What?” Soft cooing vocals, acoustic guitars and more a upbeat soft-rock percussion section feature in the likes of “Life Goes On”, “Love and Be Loved” and “Why Not Make A New Kind Of Pencil?”, capturing the idyllic life that Cindy and Jim want so desperately to have with optimism and genuine affection.

A main theme gradually begins to develop as the score progresses, hesitantly in “That’s Not Normal”, becoming more and prominent though the slightly grittier and rock-inflected “Love and Be Loved”, the magical “There’s Something You Need To See” and eventually playing a major part in the film’s climax through cues such as “I’m With 0” and the conclusive “So Much Is Possible” .

Elsewhere, the parts of the score which have a more prominent contemporary Americana feel, cues such as the aforementioned “That’s Not Normal”, the vibrant “Cherry on Top”, and “The Championship Game” remind me a little of the music Mark Isham wrote for scores like Nell and Fly Away Home, mixed through Thomas Newman’s white picket fence filter from American Beauty, especially in the string harmonies and the use of softly struck percussion items, especially marimbas. This is definitely a positive thing; although Thomas Newman’s “twisted suburbia” sound has become a little bit of a cliché over the years, especially on television, the generally upbeat and positive spin Zanelli puts on things here is very appealing.

Despite never leaving a truly lasting impression, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is at least a pleasing diversion, undemanding, enjoyable, and tuneful in a way that far too few modern film scores are these days. Like I said at the beginning of this review, versatility is a key to success in Hollywood these days, and in writing a score such as this, Geoff Zanelli proves his worth.

Rating: ***½

Buy the Odd Life of Timothy Green soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • You’re Gonna Find It Hard To Believe (1:22)
  • Life Goes On (3:18)
  • That’s Not Normal (4:23)
  • Our Kid (1:19)
  • Now What? (2:25)
  • Is He For Us? (1:31)
  • Cherry On Top (0:56)
  • I Can Only Get Better! (A Glass Half Full Person) (1:17)
  • Love and Be Loved (2:43)
  • There’s Something You Need To See (1:46)
  • Funny, Like Uncle Bub (2:06)
  • Why Not Make A New Kind Of Pencil? (2:20)
  • Nice Socks (1:09)
  • Picasso With A Pencil (1:18)
  • Run the Other Way (0:24)
  • This World They Created (1:09)
  • Think Tree (1:45)
  • The Championship Game (1:47)
  • I’m With 0 (4:32)
  • The Winning Goal (2:04)
  • I Let Her Go (1:22)
  • We Better Get Inside (2:25)
  • Never Give Up (1:44)
  • So Much Is Possible (3:28)

Running Time: 48 minutes 33 seconds

Walt Disney Records (2012)

Music composed and conducted by Geoff Zanelli. Orchestrations by Rick Giovinazzo and Kevin Kaska. Featured musical soloists George Doering and Bryce Jacobs. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands. Edited by Sally Boldt and Jay Richardson. Album produced by Geoff Zanelli.

  1. October 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I, too, really liked this score. For a while I could not stop listening. However, two of the film’s main themes are almost note for note the same as themes from Powell’s How to Train your Dragon, and once I caught that it became a little more difficult to listen to. Still, though, a very charming score and one that really shows Zanelli’s talent! Glad to see somebody it is getting reviewed.

  2. Richard Carson
    October 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Anthony, I’m really curious which themes you think are similar to HTTYD. It’s one of my favorite scores and I’m happy to say that Timothy Green is now, too, but I don’t hear any similarities.

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