For some of us, lockdown has meant back to basics; courting the life simplified.
To put it in terms of cinema, I found myself avoiding many of the special effects laden, gizmo-totting stuff of recent years lauded for the billions they minted at the box office. Suddenly it felt too much for my ageing processor. Probably because there was anyway COVID-19 around to depress me, I also avoided dystopian themes – be it dystopia by futuristic technology and fascism, or dystopia by stories of annihilation and extinction, some of which incidentally showcase virus attacks. No thank you – one virus is enough. Instead, clean, uncluttered frames of nature and human stories began to appeal. Plus, I found myself happily watching films meant for children; they seemed unabashedly original.
When I read the synopsis of Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made on Disney-Hotstar, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into although I sensed the main protagonist with polar bear-partner had an inviting Calvin and Hobbes ring to it. I stared at the still photograph announcing the film for a while and then said, “ affirmative.’’ In I went into the world of Timmy Failure, a boy on the edge of entering middle school, living and breathing the life of a detective. He is very serious about the detective agency he runs from home in partnership with his polar bear-partner, Total; their agency is aptly called Total-Failure Inc. Timmy lives with his mother, who he is close to. Constantly seeing himself as professional detective running a sleuthing agency, he speaks the jargon, dreams of shifting into a bigger office and tells his mother who has a low paying job that his agency will hire her for ten times the salary. That is the Failure ecosystem and the incidents that unravel, form the film’s story. The film is based on Stephen Pastis’s book by the same name; Pastis has authored seven books in the Timmy Failure series.
I loved the movie for its wonderful mix of life and fantasy and its unapologetic portrayal of the same. That word – unapologetic – it is important because when you become middle aged like me and slowly shed the weapons and armour you accrued for living the adult life with its many exigencies (making sense being one), you fully appreciate the value of childhood. That was one phase when you could be yourself and not give a damn, which is the tussle dawning in Timmy’s life – he is on the verge of going to middle school and it could require sacrificing his detective business for the compulsions of normal life. Winslow Fegley plays the title role of Timmy and Ophelia Lovibond appears as his mother Patty (if you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, you will remember her as Kitty Winter from Elementary). Wallace Michael Shawn brings Timmy’s teacher, Frederick Crocus to life while Craig Robinson dons the role of his school counselor Mr Jenkins. The casting is perfect right down to Kei as Charles “ Rollo” Tookus, Timmy’s best friend. This 2020 film is directed by Tom McCarthy (he is a director, screenwriter and actor) whose previous work includes well known films like Up and Spotlight.
Let me restrict myself to saying just this much and suggest instead: watch the movie.
(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)