Monday, April 6, 2020
Disney Watch: Timmy Failure - Mistakes Were Made (2020)
Director: Tom McCarthy
My guess is that you're sleeping on Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (2020). This would be a mistake. This will be one of the finest movies you could watch this year.
In a very certain way, a bit like Batman '66 (I use this comparison with no small amount of trepidation), this is an all-ages movie, and one that I think the parents in the room may well appreciate more than the kids. The kids will not recognize or appreciate Wallace Shawn in a co-starring role as a 5th grade teacher at his wits end. They will not see Craig Robinson cast as a guidance counselor for young children and get why this is perfect. They most certainly will not get why a young kid who operates as a hard-boiled detective with nothing to back it up is a darn good set-up.
Timmy Failure is a 5th grader living in a very real Portland who is working toward *greatness*. He will achieve this greatness via his detective agency which he has formed with his friend, a polar bear named Total. Together, they run Total Failure, Inc. I'm gonna mess up the tone and how this works - but the agency is somewhat imaginary, the bear is... also? But he's mostly just a bear doing bear things.
Really, the entire movie is a story about a fifth grader who is probably a total weirdo having a very hard time and a bit afraid of growing up who lives his detective facade 24/7, dismissing anything unrelated as unimportant and missing the big picture. But unlike an Encyclopedia Brown or the like, Timmy really has no idea what is going on, is not a detective and the cut-aways to what Timmy thinks is happening are frankly pretty amazing.
The take on kids has an air of "yeah, this is about right" that even someone without kids can tap into if you remember 5th grade. The kid actors are pretty amazing, especially our lead who just has this whole thing down. But the supporting kids, especially Rollo and the girl who smells like tangerines, are hysterical.
Where it comes to adults, there's some broad stuff, but also some really good things. It's not a movie that treats the grown-ups like idiots. The aforementioned Wallace Shawn does a surprising amount with his role, and Craig Robinson applies his cool to his role in a way that elevates everything about the movie. A would be suitor to Timmy's mom is played by Kyle Bornheimer, who has his own quixotic tendencies on a much smaller scale (between Avenue 5 and Brooklyn 99, Bornheimer has been doing some good stuff out there). And I was really impressed with Ophelia Lovibond who plays Timmy's often absent mom but between her performance and the film's scripting never feels like she's negligent - she's genuinely doing the best she can (but that best may be a bit scattered sometimes).
This movie may also feature the most real take on librarians I've seen in a movie in "Flo".
Anyway - I'm gonna oversell it, undersell it or sell it wrong. But the movie hits a lot of those tonal beats you get out of the better Disney animated films where you become weirdly invested in what's going on with the characters. Even the polar bear.