TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE is the latest film from director Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), based on the best-selling book of the same name from author Stephan Pastis, which follows an 11-year-old boy, along with his imaginary polar bear, who believes he is the best detective in town. The film stars Winslow Fegley (The Good Doctor), Ophelia Lovibond (The Autopsy of Jane Doe), Kyle Bornheimer (Marriage Story), Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride), and Craig Robinson (Tragedy Girls). To best describe the plot, I’ll turn to the official synopsis:
“TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE follows the hilarious exploits of our quirky, deadpan hero, Timmy Failure, who, along with his 1,500-pound polar bear partner Total, operates Total Failure Inc., a Portland detective agency. An elementary school oddball, the clueless but confident Timmy (Winslow Fegley) must navigate the world of adults around him, including his overburdened mother (Ophelia Lovibond), her well-meaning boyfriend (Kyle Bornheimer), his teacher/nemesis (Wallace Shawn) and a school-mandated guidance counselor (Craig Robinson), all in his quest to become the best detective in the world.”
I absolutely love reviewing horror films but every so often, a non-horror movie will come my way that completely steals my heart. In this case that film would be TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE. Not only does the film have a ton of heart, but it’s a reminder that there is nothing wrong with being different. Timmy Failure isn’t like other kids. Living in North Portland, Timmy’s one hobby includes his obsession with his detective agency where he cracks cases such as finding his schoolmates missing backpacks. At his side is a polar bear named Total that, real or not, seems to be the perfect side-kick to Timmy (though Total’s ability to be stealth is less than desirable). With his distinctive red scarf, Timmy rides around town on his mom’s segway (even though he’s not supposed to) in search of the next big case while also neglecting his school work. Though he has a few friends, Timmy is mostly on his own, due to his mom working two jobs and his dad being out of the picture. Because of this, Timmy exudes a persona of serious dedication to his craft which kind of makes him an oddball outsider.
However, things begin to take a drastic turn after his teacher, played by the insanely talented character actor Wallace Shawn, forces Timmy to do a group project with his two friends: his former employee Rollo (Kei) and Molly (Chloe Coleman), the girl he’s crushing on (even if he doesn’t realize it), as well as the dreaded Nameless One, a young girl named Karina (Ai-Chan Carrier), who Timmy is convinced is a Russian Spy. On top of that, his mother has a new boyfriend, a meter maid named Crispin (Kyle Bornheimer) who makes valiant attempts at connecting with Timmy, regardless of however many times Timmy brushes him off. However, when his mom (Ophelia Lovibond) informs Timmy that they will have to move out of their house, this causes a crisis inside Timmy that erupts in anger and sadness. Despite all these things, everything comes to a head when Timmy and the rest of his class take a trip to visit a local dam where he becomes convinced that Karina will shut down the dam resulting in the energy in Portland shutting down. As I’m sure you can tell, this is all quite a lot for an 11-year-old to deal with. That said, director McCarthy does a brilliant job of bringing everything together so that viewers become aware of why his detective work, the polar bear, and his red scarf mean so much to him as well as why he has such a large wall up. It’s heartbreaking but it also completely makes sense as to why he has such strong emotional attachments to certain things as well as to why Total came into his life.
The most impressive part of this film is the performance of Winslow Fegley. This young actor has quite a future in store for him if he continues on this path of acting. His performance is so good that he’s able to hold his own against veteran actors such as Wallace Shawn. The interaction between the cast feels genuine, especially when Timmy reluctantly allows Crispin into his life. Their banter and eventual friendship, which takes time to grow due to Timmy’s initial unwillingness to let another man into his (but mostly his mom’s) life. But when the climactic ending comes along, viewers get to see how both Timmy and Crispin truly needed the other in their lives. The same can be said for Timmy and his teacher – though their relationship is much more tumultuous. However, Timmy does make it clear that he has a lot of respect for his teacher/nemesis, even if his teacher doesn’t feel the same. And then there is Craig Robinson, who plays the school-mandated guidance counselor and one of the few people who is able to speak with Timmy on his level. Using examples of detective work to get Timmy to do his homework and prepare for middle-school, Robinson’s performance is monumental in understanding Timmy and the issues that he’s wrestling with.
In all TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE is a film that deals with themes such as abandonment and the difficulties that change can bring while also demonstrating the importance of having hope and positivity. Sometimes we all need an escape after an upsetting incident occurs in life but it’s important to remember that our loved ones are here to help us get back on our feet. TIMMY FAILURE is a movie that I’ll definitely be recommending to friends and family who want a wholesome story that’ll make them laugh and even shed a tear. TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE arrives exclusively on Disney+ Friday, February 7, 2020. For more on the film, check our red carpet interviews here.