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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Martian Child

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Judy Thorburn

"Martian Child"

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"MARTIAN CHILD"

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

I have to get something off my chest. Somewhere, I read a short synopsis on The Martian Child in which the words “romantic drama” was used to describe the film. For me, and I believe for others, that would be misleading since romantic usually brings to mind a passionate, love affair. Based on that definition, to call it “romantic” is way off base. However, on the other hand, love, does play a powerful factor in this touching, but predictable story about a widower and the peculiar young boy he adopts.

John Cusack is David Gordon, a widower and successful science fiction writer who felt out place and escaped into a world of fantasy as a child. As a married adult, he and his wife had plans to adopt a child, but now four years after her death, David is reconsidering the possibility after living alone with his faithful golden retriever in his spacious mansion. On one hand his best friend and potential love interest, Harlee (a radiant, Amanda Peet) contributes words of wisdom and encourages him to go with the flow while his sister, Liz, (real life sibling Joan Cusack, supplying some comic relief) the mother of two boys, warms him of impending parental difficulties especially after the child in question turns out to be seven year old Dennis (Bobby Coleman), who insists he is from Mars and is just visiting this planet temporarily. Yes, Liz remembers that her brother was weird as a child, but Dennis is in another league, altogether.

During a visit to an orphanage, David first comes into contact with Dennis, whom he discovers inside the child’s personal refuge, a cardboard box that he lives in during the day which, he says, protects him from the rays of the Sun. Outside of the box, Dennis wears sunglasses, heavy sunscreen, dark shades and a battery packed “holding down” belt so he doesn’t float away. As strange and uncommunicative as Dennis appears, David sees something familiar in the child that he can relate to and in hoping to connect, decides to take him home on a trial basis. After all, David was a misfit child who grew up writing about Martians. Now he’s met a misfit kid who thinks he IS a Martian. Sounds like a perfect match.

Dennis’s room is filled with outer space visuals, posters and toys, yet he still retreats in his own world beset by strange characteristics and behavior such as only wanting to eat Lucky Charms cereal, stealing other’s personal items and hiding them in his closet, and taking instant photographs of David and everything in his surroundings so he can learn how to become human. At school, he refuses to interact with other children, and instead prefers to hang upside down on a bar. Dennis’s weird behavior has him expelled from school, at which time David is informed by the teacher that the boy needs special attention. All this sends up a red flag to Mr. Lefkowitz (Richard Schiff) a representative from social services, who upon making a surprise house visit at the most inappropriate time, thinks the troubled child needs a parent, not a friend, to help him adjust to living in the real world.

Screenwriters Seth E. Bass and Jonathan Tolins have adapted David Gerrold’s semi autobiographical novel to the screen, and in so doing, changed Gerrald’s gay single man, father figure persona into a widower (that’s Hollywood for ya - making it more mainstream audience friendly). Personally, I think that was unnecessary.

What’s more, I never like being emotionally manipulated or teased by plot devices. Case in point; Dennis’s special abilities like being able to control traffic lights, knowing what color tastes like, and causing a home run at will at a baseball game is thrown in to have us wondering if this kid could really be from another planet. What do you think?

The main reason to see the film are the terrific performances that draws you in. John Cusack is so natural and terrific, and he has wonderful chemistry with Coleman, a gifted young actor who looks amazingly like McCauley Caulkin when he starred in “Home Alone”. Manipulated as I was by what could be perceived as sappy, I could not help but be touched by their tender and genuinely believable scenes together. I wish I could say the same thing about the climactic breakthrough, but how and where it takes place was so unrealistic and overwrought with unanswered questions that it lessened the overall affect.

On the sidelines, Oliver Platt shows up in a small role as David’s literary agent and Angelica Huston makes an appearance as his British publisher.

If the film says anything, it is about the way humans choose to cope with underlying issues, the need to bond, and the redeeming power of love. A point is also made about staying true to yourself and not giving in to what others want or expect you to be.

Whether Dennis is an E.T. or not, the messages evoked are not otherworldly, just human, meant for the entire family regardless of age, and down to earth.