In case you didn’t know, Tom McCarthy is Hollywood’s most interesting director. Don’t believe me? Look at his filmography. The same year he released that God-awful Adam Sandler vehicle The Cobbler, he also went on to win an Oscar for Spotlight. To call the man versatile would be an understatement. If you look at his resume as a whole, it’s plain to see that he just likes to tell stories, and he’s not afraid to try new things. His latest film, Timmy Failure, is yet another example of that.
As expected, McCarthy’s direction is great. While his ability to stuff so much information in a single shot never ceases to amaze me, it’s really his procedural montages that are the most memorable here. As we follow Timmy on his multitude of misadventures, McCarthy never misses a beat. For example, in the film there are countless times where we follow Timmy as he travels from different locations, but instead of cutting from Timmy leaving to Timmy arriving, he painstakingly shows us his journey. Along the way, he employs the use of graffiti or street signs or even “missing” posters to comment on Timmy’s current situation. Even though it occasionally feels repetitive, it is always engaging.
One thing I was not too fond of though was the overuse of cutaway gags. What starts off as a casual comedy device becomes relied on too frequently as the film goes on. At one point, it felt like I was watching Family Guy because I could actually anticipate when a joke was coming.
I was pleased with McCarthy’s artistic vision overall though.
Based on the best-selling book series by Stephen Pastis, and as mentioned before, the film follows the misadventures of a young boy (actually) named Timmy Failure. But it doesn’t stop there. Timmy is a self-proclaimed detective with an imaginary polar bear partner and an obsession with local Russians who might actually just be hipsters. When his mother’s Segway goes missing, it sets off a series of events that force him to change his perspective on everything and grow up.
Now, there might just be enough random nouns in that synopsis to make you think I just filled out a mad libs, but the sheer randomness of this movie is what I found so enjoyable.
You never know what’s going to happen, which is rare for a Disney film - and also, the film feels so indie that you kind of forget it’s a Disney product altogether, which was refreshing. The film isn’t concerned with being preachy or tackling any of the usual Disney themes. It’s just a simple, yet not so simple, story.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Winslow Fegley plays the titular Timmy Failure, and despite his haircut, he’s terrific - more on that in a second though. In my opinion, the real star of the film is Ophelia Lovibond. Personally, I’ve been following her for years and to see her go from films like Mr. Popper’s Penguins to The Autopsy of Jane Doe and even Guardians of the Galaxy to this, watching her grow has been a pleasure. And I hope this opens the door for more leading roles for her.
She plays Timmy’s mom. Sometimes optimistic, but always supportive, she provides the emotional core of the story. Whenever Timmy is in trouble or the stakes are high for his character, it’s never him you feel for - it’s her.
The legendary Wallace Shawn appears alongside comedic genius Craig Robinson. They play Timmy’s teacher and counselor respectively, and the rest of the cast is filled with relative unknowns and newcomers, but as mentioned before, no one is better than Lovibond.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Both the score and sounds within the film are also just okay. Nothing bad. Nothing noteworthy. Just good enough to get by.
Of the three aforementioned categories, the film’s special effects are easily the most important and prevalent. And I’m not just saying that because Timmy’s got a painfully bad mullet. It’s so bad that I really had to touch my own head several times just to remind myself of what a normal haircut felt like.
In all seriousness though, the special effects in this film are most noteworthy because one of the film’s main characters is literally a CGI polar bear. The bear, while always irrelevant, is nearly in every shot of this film. I swear. Despite being imaginary though, he looks 100% real. The detail applied to the bear is beyond impressive. Everything from its size to the motion tracking of its fur is nothing short of impressive, but considering the scope of the film, it’s ultimately all for nothing.
I’m happy to say that this film does not live up to its name. It’s not a failure, but it’s certainly no triumph either. Overall, it’s a fun little indie that despite harkening way too heavily on the detective fiction genre, delivers a cute coming-of-age story.