DVD Release Date:  February 12, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  November 2, 2007
Rating:  PG (thematic elements, mild language)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time:  108 min.
Director:  Menno Meyjes
Actors:  John Cusack, Bobby Coleman, Amanda Peet, Joan Cusack, Oliver Platt

Much like Hugh Grant’s foray into more serious fare with 2002’s About a Boy, John Cusack, another consummate bachelor in real life, proves he’s got dramatic range and emotional gravitas in the otherworldly drama Martian Child.

Thanks to a mostly schmaltz-free script that integrates plenty of Cusack’s natural charm and quick wit, Martian Child isn’t as sappy or cringe-inducing as the trailers have made it out to be. In fact, the story of a grieving widower turned adoptive parent is a moving one that’s both redemptive and entertaining.

While the movie is a bit slow moving in the beginning, the story really picks up once David Gordon (Cusack) meets Dennis (Bobby Coleman), a 10-year-old, self-proclaimed “extraterrestrial” who spends most of his day in a cardboard box. And if that behavior isn’t odd enough, Dennis also wears his sunglasses indoors, has kleptomaniac tendencies that he acts on and refuses to eat anything but Lucky Charms.
      
Of course, most people would’ve been scared off by a kid this odd, and adoption would simply be out of the question. But as a science fiction writer and a bit of a misfit himself, David finds Dennis’ beliefs that he’s from Mars intriguing. And despite constant warnings from his overprotective sister Liz (a very funny Joan Cusack), David eventually decides to adopt Dennis on a trial basis and introduce him to life as an “earthling.”

That process proves to be more than a small challenge, though—especially for someone new to the up-and-down journey of parenting. And for the bulk of the movie, we see David and Dennis struggle through a variety of situations:  the death of the family dog, getting expelled from school for not fitting in, dealing with Family Services when Dennis’ progress isn’t happening quickly enough.

Yet instead of relying on every patented cliché in the book and resolving things much too easily—something that happens in so many movies—the filmmakers don’t shy away from showing the bad along with the good. With that strong foundation in the script, Cusack has the ability to convey a full range of emotions as an actor, whether he’s grieving the death of his wife or processing his unconditional love for his new son.

It’s in this process that we inevitably see David grow as a man and Dennis grow as a “human,” which makes the movie not only a memorable experience, but the eventual redemption all the sweeter.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Some social drinking is pictured.
  • Language/Profanity:  A few mild profanities coupled with several instances of the Lord’s name taken in vain.
  • Sex/Nudity:  None, aside from a quick kiss between David and a family friend/potential love interest.
  • Violence:  None.
  • Mature Themes/Worldview:  Child abandonment and the psychological issues and baggage that go along with that are discussed at length. At one point, the family dog dies, so death and the afterlife are discussed, and the worldview isn’t a Christian one. In a scene when Jesus is mentioned, a little girl reminds David there are plenty of religious options, and that Jesus is just one of them.