Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made Review: An Authentic Tale of Imagination and Identity

While Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made may be a film tailored to younger audiences, it never once lets its adult viewers off the hook. Yes, it's very fun and silly, and kids watching at home will be absolutely delighted. But Tom McCarthy's detective tale is as much about young people as it is for them, perhaps even more so. This is a story about the power of imagination and the joy of self-acceptance. It's also a brilliant look into how much difference an adult can make when they decide to put away their concerns and meet a child where they are, rather than where they think they should be.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is based on the series of Timmy Failure novels from Stephan Pastis, which feature an elementary school boy who believes himself to be a world-class detective. No matter how silly the cases or situations may seem, Timmy (Winslow Fegley) takes his job, and his life, very seriously. Thanks to the most active of imaginations, Timmy believes that the death of his class hamster is part of a Russian conspiracy, and he does his best to unravel the clues and get to the bottom of the case. Timmy's also trying to shove aside a very real fear of going to middle school next year, helped only by his partner-in-crime Total, an imaginary polar bear.

As with so many other kids in the world, Timmy's life isn't easy. His dad is out of the picture, so he's left to be raised only by his mother, who's constantly working in order to provide for her son, leaving Timmy to his own devices most of the time. Timmy goes to a school where his teachers either don't care to meet him where he needs to be met, or just don't understand how to do so. These kinds of situations are commonplace for young characters, but Timmy Failure really works to turn those tropes on their head with one simple fact: Timmy is deeply loved.

Some of the adults and kids in Timmy's life don't get him, and don't care to, but the core people in his life offer a glimpse into how much of a difference can be made when we simply try to love and empathize. Timmy's mother, played wonderfully by Ophelia Lovibond, allows him room to be himself. The school guidance counselor (Craig Robinson) uses detective work and "undercover cases" to better understand Timmy and help him succeed. They care for him in a way that isn't at all manufactured.

Not only do all of these characters show genuine heart for Timmy and his quirks, but they are earnest and real in their own right. Each supporting member of this cast feels wholly authentic, and they each deliver their own message of living comfortably in your own skin. Kyle Bornheimer plays a laid-back meter maid who wants to break the stigma about the people who pass out parking tickets. Comedian Caitlin Weierhauser is the school librarian who wears a rainbow shirt under their leather vest and takes part in a motorcycle club outside of school. Timmy's mom has a few tattoos and doesn't feel like that keeps her from being a great parent. As Timmy often says, "Normal is for normal people." The child preaches an authenticity that can't be taught, and the whole film follows his lead.

Rather than trying to use a cookie-cutter narrative or an entirely too on-the-nose metaphor to teach kids how to be decent to yourself and other people, Timmy Failure simply shows you what that looks like. "Normal is for normal people" isn't just a catchphrase to help the titular detective get by, it's a rallying cry to everyone who doesn't fit inside a box. It's a promise that we're all in this together. It may sound corny to read, but Timmy Failure is anything but.

"Long live the wildcards, misfits, and dabblers." Long live Timmy Failure.


Rating: 4 out of 5

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is now streaming on Disney+