2016 was a landmark Sundance year when Netflix and Amazon started buying the biggest buzz movies of the festival. By 2017 the streaming services brought many of their original movies to premiere at Sundance. It was a real sign of the changing industry dynamics. Studios used to buy indie movies to put in theaters. Now streaming services were not only buying up content but they were using the festival to generate buzz for their own projects. 2020 marks the Sundance where Disney+ followed suit with Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.
A kids movie is also a rarity at Sundance. They do program a family block, usually only three titles at most. That’s where Timmy Failure fits in. It will be on Disney+ Friday, February 7.
Meet Timmy Failure
The first thing Timmy Failure (Winslow Fegley) wants you to know is how he got that last name. It’s an unfortunate family history but he is quite a success. He wants to start his own investigation agency which is quite ambitious for a fifth-grader.
First Timmy has to get through school where the teachers complain he’s distracted. He is. He’s onto a Russian invasion conspiracy and if he’s right that does take precedence to gym class. He sees His fellow fifth graders (Chloe Coleman, Ruby Matenko, Kei) as distractions too but they support him. He also has a pet polar bear named Total, as one does.
What childhood feels like to a kid
Timmy comes with his mundane life by imagining himself in absurd, surreal situations. He Imagines himself in the middle of a broadway musical. He Imagines detention as prison, as hard as The Shawshank Redemption.
How he imagines other people is even more extreme. He imagines his mom (Ophelia Lovibond) and her boyfriend Crispin (Kyle Bornheimer) vandalizing and his daydream about Crispin’s psychiatrist is even less flattering.
Timmy Failure is funny because it’s true
These imagination sequences are amusing because they reflect how it really feels to be a kid. School feels beneath Timmy when he has real mysteries to solve. What kid doesn’t feel like grade school is beneath them, but it is important to learn to socialize and get a basic foundation education.
Likewise, Timmy is also dealing with single mother dating again. The movie has a sweet perspective on these very relatable life issues. It captures being a kid with plans that don’t fit other kids or adults.
Oscar winning Spotlight director Tom McCarthy gives Timmy Failure a decidedly lighter tone than his grown-up movies. His screenplay with novelist Stephan Pastis strikes a good balance of this outrageous Russian plot that’s real to Timmy. The film makes it believable without losing the reality. Even having a polar bear as a main character isn’t overdone. Total isn’t trying to steal scenes. He’s just being a bear and he’ll help Timmy if he needs it.
Timmy Failure is a win for Disney+ original movies. There could definitely be a Timmy Failure franchise. They’d better make as many as they can before Fegley grows up, although teenage Timmy would be fun too.
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