"Martian Child" (2007) - movie review
A recently widowed science fiction writer forms an unlikely family with a close friend and a young adopted boy that claims to be from Mars. The new couple ignores some sage parenting advice from the widower's sister and gets more than they bargained for when a series of strange occurrences lead them to believe that the child's claim may be true.
Science fiction writer, David Gordon (John Cusack) is feeling alone after losing his wife two years earlier. David is weighing the possibility of adopting a six-year old orphan boy named Dennis (Bobby Coleman). There is only one thing that may prevent the adoption from happening, and that is Dennis believes he is from the planet Mars. David's sister, Liz (Joan Cusack), tries to talk him out of adopting a child, because he doesn't know the first thing about parenting and this child is over the line and very strange. David has made up his mind and wants to be a father to this strange Martian child. David is having so much fun being a parent that he has stop writing and is about to miss his next book deadline. His agent Jeff (Oliver Platt) tries to bring David back to earth, but David is thinking about Mars more and more. David is letting Dennis be himself, and he is caught up in the fantasy of Dennis actually being from Mars. Whatever the truth, David has changed for the better, and now he has learned how to be a loving and caring parent.
My friend B had asked me to see it with her and her 9-year-old daughter, and I admit I had not much of an idea of what the movie was about. I'd seen the preview a time or two, and it didn't look like anything I'd want to watch. A bit silly, really. But from almost the first moment, I realized that the movie I was seeing was not the movie I was expecting.
David (John Cusack) had lost his wife 2 years ago, and missing her reminds him of their mutual wish to adopt a child one day. He's conflicted as he discusses this with his female best friend Harlee (Amanda Peet) who nevertheless encourages him to follow his heart because she believes he has a lot of love to give a child. So when the opportunity presents itself, he goes to meet Dennis, a strange little boy who plays in a box because it protects him from UV rays, and wears a "weight" belt so he stays on the ground and isn't sucked back up to Mars, his home planet. Needless to say, Dennis has issues.
In an effort to get Dennis to open up, David tries to indulge him in almost anything the young boy wishes, from buying box after box of Lucky Charms (a favorite food item of Dennis') to letting him take endless Polaroid pictures to even an impromptu "let's break the dishes because they are just things so it's okay if you want to smash them all to bits" session where inevitably the obligatory visit from Social Services just happens to occur at the height of such giddy destruction. Uh-oh.
David realizes that if Dennis is going to live with him permanently, he's going to have to find a way to make him fit in, especially in school. Driven by the strong paternal affection he already feels for Dennis, his fear of losing the little guy frustrates him until he decides to prove to Dennis that his belief that he's a Martian is just pretend, just a way to feel safe when on the outside his life hasn't been so perfect. Being the smart, sensitive child Dennis is, he picks up on David's intentions, and tries to be the kid David wants him to be, but something is keeping Dennis from embracing his new life, something that may drive them apart for good.
Oh my God, I cried. Several times in fact. This little boy just got to me, and yes, even though it was only a movie, I kept forgetting that part. Bobby Coleman, who plays Dennis, does an amazing job of portraying this Martian child as a super-sensitive, unusual little boy who has been abandoned by his parents and copes by escaping into his own little world as a Martian on a mission. Sometimes he's sad, sometimes he's funny, sometimes he's so serious you just want to hug him because he's way too young to be that serious.
John Cusack portrays David as a successful writer who had his own awkward childhood, and can somewhat relate to Dennis' world of fantasy, and he grows to love this little boy so much that the thought of losing him scares him more than anything. With a looming book deadline hovering over him, David is at a loss as to how to write the book his agent and publishers want, only he's more concerned with trying to raise his new son and heal the hurt he carries around deep inside.
At times funny, often sweet and touching, "Martian Child" is a bit sappy, going for the obvious heart-string tug, but you know what? That was exactly the kinda movie I wanted to see, and I definitely got my money's worth. I know some people may have found this to be an overly emotional clunker that was a bit slow and didn't need to be dragged out for two hours, but I didn't mind that at all, and in fact wanted to see more. Interestingly, it turns out the little boy Bobby Coleman, had previously appeared in another John Cusack movie, "Must Love Dogs", which I did see, and was rather disappointed in. This time around though, I was much more engaged in the movie. Maybe I am way too easy to please, but "Martian Child" worked for me, especially amidst all the violent, brutal, jaded films out there these days. It's not the best movie I've ever seen, but days later, I'm still thinking about it, going over scenes in my head, wanting to go back and see them again. For me, it worked, and that's all I need to know.
Rating: **** out of *****
Labels: movies, reviews