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Martian Child (2007)

Some fathers and sons grow up together.

Directed by:

Menno Meyjes

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 106 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: United States

I’ve long believed that out of all my celebrity husbands, John Cusack would be my favorite, mostly because he seems as if he would be good in any situation. He can do funny, serious, heart wrenching, dark, mean, nerdy—and he does it all while remaining entirely his own adjective: “Cusack.” He just is. That’s apparent in Martian Child, a quirky little movie that doesn’t go as schmaltzy as it could, but also doesn’t quite go far enough the other way either.

Widower David Gordon (Cusack) is a sci-fi writer looking to adopt a child … sort of. He’s unsure, really, that he has the makings of a father, especially a single father, and his wariness grows when he meets Dennis (Bobby Coleman), a strange young boy who hates the sun and professes to be from Mars. David can relate somewhat to Dennis and his eccentricities, having been the weird kid himself, and takes him in with the best intentions. But Dennis is more than an oddball little kid, though—he’s a seriously troubled boy who is almost completely unable to adapt to society, and it takes all the love David can muster to even begin to break through Dennis’s “alien” shell.

My biggest complaint with the movie is that David isn’t gay. This is a true story, based on author David Gerrold’s fictional account (Got that? Story based on a fictional account of a true story) of his own trials and tribulations raising Dennis. Gerrold is gay, even in his fictional account, but that omission from the screen version is not my issue. Poor Amanda Peet just seems to be getting roles in which she’s stuck in for convenience (I’ve got my stink eye on YOU, X-Files!), and here, she serves absolutely no purpose and makes every scene she’s in seem like she’s forced into the “new girlfriend” role, through no fault of her own. Other than that, though, this is a refreshing change from most of what’s out there on this subject. Cusack is, again, doing what he’s best at—acting like Cusack—and his sister Joan—playing David’s sister Liz—offers some laugh out loud bits about her own children (“Omen 1 and Omen 2”). There are no easy answers, but it’s also not all gloom and doom—the highs and lows are all given equal time, and scenes like the one where David puts his hand in his pocket instead of holding the hand of his new son subtly add depth to two characters that could easily become stereotypes. Special mention, too, goes to Coleman, who never makes Dennis too cute, instead giving a realistic performance of a very emotionally troubled, yet extremely bright child. In the end, it’s a film with complex, likable characters doing stuff real people do and loving each other in awkward ways just like in life—but here, it’s entertaining.

It's Got: Great performances by Cusack and Coleman, some hilarious moments with Joan Cusack, facts about Mars.

It Needs: To cut the romance with Peet, and maybe a rework of the “rooftop” scene to something a little less “movie climax”.

DVD Extras Fourteen Deleted/Alternate Scenes; Audio commentary from producers Cory Sienega and David Kirshner and writers Seth Bass and Jonathan Tolins; Two featurettes : "Handle with Care: Working with the Martian Child," “The Real Martian Child”; Trailers. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

August Rush, Bridge to Terabithia, Finding Neverland

Summary

Virtually ignored and unseen in its theatrical release, this is a film about the complex bond between a lonely father and his troubled adoptive son that could benefit from DVD viewing—as it should.

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