This movie, adapted from the series of books by Stephan Pastis, narrates the story of Timmy, a wildly imaginative fifth-grader who struggles with socializing, finding a father figure, and recognizing and accepting attraction for girls. To that effect, Timmy has created an elaborate fantasy in which he is the founder and manager of a detective agency, assisted by a beautifully crafted polar bear with a name as peculiar as Timmy himself. The combination of both names account for the tone of the story and the way more than one character perceive their existence: Total Failure Inc.
The movie is funny, in a deadpan sort of way. The protagonist, Winslow Fegley, delivers an impeccable performance from beginning to end. Part of the success of the movie we can attribute to him and to Total, a polar bear only Timmy and we can see, but whose presence in the story commands an impressive weight, as it would be expected from a huge polar bear.
The artists behind the hyper realistic bear were Framestore and its VFX supervisor, Nicholas Chevallier. Whether the bear is clumsily hitting objects, looking for food in the dumpster, or just sitting around, we can’ help smiling. I would say Total has merit for one of the best sidekicks (human or CGI) in movie history.
Timmy’s single mother Patty (Ophelia Lovibond) is another important character, whose absence and apparent carelessness allows for the emotional tension of the story to escalate and delivers a very emotional resolution in the key scenes. Timmy’s annoying matter-of-fact imaginary detective agency and mystery cases to solve can be annoying for some viewers the first few minutes, but once you grasp the character’s emotional turmoil, you can’t wait to see the result. This outcome does not come in the form of a psychologically satisfying resolution; it is rather predictable for a kiddy feel-good movie, but it does suggest that some growth has been achieved and some truths faced.
Most adult characters in the movie provide different therapeutic angles to help Timmy find the balance between imaginary and real without drastically shaking him out of his evasive world. One of his teachers, Mr. Crocus, played by always funny Wallace Shawn, is probably the most drastic, but he still finds a way to contribute to the kid’s wellbeing. Timmy’s mother’s boyfriend, traffic officer Crispin (Kyle Bornheimer) becomes a conflicting contender in Timmy’s life, even thought he is a rather nice guy who just wants Timmy’s approval. Crispin provides a great example of step-father-to-be. School counselor, Mr. Jenkins (Craig Robinson), also provides a great character with some moving strategies to deal with kids like Timmy.
There are other child actors in the movies but Fegley’s commanding performance puts them in the background. Their performances and integration of their roles in the story is probably the weakest aspect of the movie.
All in all, Timmy Failure is actually a success. Affirmative! An unassuming children’s movie, based on children’s books that delivers some laughter and some tears as it makes us deal with a peculiar kid not everyone may have the patience to deal with. Mistakes are made in all lives; it is just a matter of being wise enough to acknowledge those and say the right words at the right moment. The healing starts then. Totally!
I give it two thumbs up: 8/10
Title: Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made (2020)
Directed by: Tom McCarthy (Up, Spotlight)
Running time: 99 mins
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed the review and feel like watching the movie.