Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (2020)
Director: Tom McCarthy
Writers: Tom McCarthy and Stephan Pastis
Starring: Winslow Fegley, Craig Robinson, Chloe Coleman, Ophelia Lovibond, and Wallace Shawn
Plot: Timmy Failure, an 11-year-old detective, finds himself in the middle of a massive Russian conspiracy (or at least he imagines that he does).
Review: I’m not entirely sure what to make of Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. It’s well-made. It’s funny. It’s clever. And, it’s got a terrific lead performance by an eleven-year-old. But, by the time the credits rolled I was bored and mostly indifferent to the whole exercise. I almost didn’t even write up a review for this, because it’s a mostly inoffensive kids’ movie that was dropped on a streaming service that most kids already have access to. I’m not really helping or hurting by putting this out there. But, then, I thought of people like me, Disney-philes. The ones who are constantly browsing the Disney+ library. They might stop at this title and think “is it worth it?”. I’d like to help those people out with my answer of “kind of”. Anyways, if you’re that person (or you just want to hear my opinion), let’s jump into it.
The best part of Timmy Failure is, well, Timmy Failure. He’s hilariously deadpan. He takes his job as a detective very seriously. And, his imagination is wild. I very much liked to spend the first hour or so of this movie with him. To me, it felt very authentic because I was this type of kid. I had imaginary friends. But, I just pretended I was on a 24-hour “Truman Show” type reality program instead of pretending I was a detective. So, yeah, this kid and I could’ve definitely been friends. I especially liked how indepth his fantasies were. From taking figures of speech literally to thinking hipsters were Russian agents, I was constantly surprised and delighted by the world he thought he lived in.
I also really enjoyed that the characters in this movie looked felt like real people. His mom had purple hair and a couple of tattoos. She worked two jobs to try and support her son. And, she’s made a couple of mistakes parenting this difficult kid. However, the movie never casts her in a bad light. She is still saintly in the way that all mothers are. She’s flawed but never portrayed as the villain. The librarian too was a very butch, biker woman, but she’s never portrayed as scary just because she has short hair, a leather jacket, and tattoos. For Disney to do that is pretty progressive and cool. Usually the only characters that look and act like that are the villains in Disney flicks. Sure, maybe they’re behind the curve a bit, but Disney is always afraid to embrace modern themes like this so it was cool to see it.
So, why am I not 100% embracing this movie? Honestly, it’s the plot. By the end of it, I was pretty bored. Our main character doesn’t grow at all as a person. I thought the moral of the story was really cool: Embrace your imagination. Embrace what makes you different. However, in my opinion, Timmy has been taking it too far. He’s constantly breaking the law and putting himself and others in danger. It was fun to watch at first, but I was under the assumption that this was going to collapse around him and he’d have to grow up a little bit. (MILD SPOILERS TO FOLLOW) However, he never really does. The movie has him learn a very important lesson in the third act and then just completely undoes it. By the end of the movie, he’s still being reckless and carefree. Maybe that’s a fault with the book and not the movie. I don’t know. I haven’t read the book. It just feels like an obvious ploy to set up further sequels. Don’t have the character grow because what we like about the character is his childlike wonder. It feels lazy and like it could’ve been done much better. It bugged me, but I’m not the target audience here. I’m sure that kids will hate the parts where Timmy gets in trouble and love that his imagination keeps going afterwards.
TL;DR: Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is a fun movie, but, overall, feels kind of pointless due to a character arc that doesn’t really go anywhere.
Score: 6/10 (Ok)