Jean-Luc Godard once accurately said of Au Hasard Balthazar (the first masterful five minutes of which are above) that it was the world in an hour and a half. In The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick attempts to give us the universe in two hours and a half, only to give us over-edited fragments of a 60s Texas suburban clan's family videos. What's particularly galling is how little Malick cares about his characters; he treats them with precisely the degree of interest (and in precisely the same way) that a music video director treats his models. Large parts of the movie feel like extended anti-allergy or anti-arthritis* commercials. You know, the rapturous shots of mothers and their toddler sons playing outside - imagine a couple hours of that, edited at exactly the pace of a real anti-allergy commercial, leavened with a digression on the Big Bang and pseudophilosophical disquisitions on the "way of nature" and the "way of grace." And like a commercial, Malick's movie isn't about the people in it; it's about aggressively selling the viewer on some bullshit about loving every leaf, every ray of light (an actual quote from the film's constant voiceover). And even at that it fails completely. The only slightly interesting thing in the movie is the bit when the eldest of the Allegra Fam's three sons develops a not-very-subtextual thing for his mom, which Malick seems to be cool with, because in the film's unsubtle dichotomous world, she represents the way of grace, while Brad Pitt, her husband, represents the way of nature (apparently the bad way, which is odd given that the entire film is a series of loving shots of sunflowers and trees and flowers and more trees). It's the only sexual thing in a very sexless film, Malick being more comfortable with plant life and its less messy means of reproduction.
* The last fifteen minutes are more of a riff on anti-arthritis ads - tons of old people happily taking a stroll on the beach. The twist here being that they're all - SPOILER ALERT! - reincarnated old arthritic people. Or maybe they're just in Sean Penn's mind. Either way, who cares.