Friday, November 2, 2007

Martian Child

“I don’t want to bring another kid into this world, but how do you argue against loving one that’s already here?”

John Cusack stars as David, a science fiction writer who is still dealing with the loss of his wife. A social worker (Sophie Okonedo), who had been working to place a child with the couple contacts David about a special case. Dennis (Bobby Coleman) is an odd little kid who spends most of his time in a box, collects (steals) items from other children, and wears a weight belt made of batteries. Oh, and he thinks he’s a Martian.

You can probably guess where the film goes from here. David and Dennis have their problems and grow to love each other. It terms of storytelling the film doesn’t break any new ground, but the script from Seth Bass and Jonathan Tolins, based on the novel by David Gerrold, does hold our interest with smart characters and a story willing to hedge its bets on whether the kid is delusional or actually an alien.

There are some nice supporting performances here in roles that are could have been easily forgettable with less talented actors. Amanda Peet charmed the socks off me as David’s sister-in-law, Joan Cusack is good as always playing a role she knows well - the sister, and Richard Schiff brings his trademark gruffness to the head of the review board who has the power to take Dennis away from David. Although none of the characters are that well-written, these actors infuse them with energy and charm; there are several scenes between Peet and Cusack which nearly steal the film.

Before ending I must mention young Bobby Coleman who does a good job playing the role of both a troubled young man and a strange being from another world. Although the film eventually makes a statement about whether or not Dennis is from another world it never closes the door on other possibilities, and that’s a good thing.

Yes the film gets sappy in some scenes (as, for instance, the quote I used above), and even though the film takes place on the west coast Cusack still finds a way to get a Chicago hat on the kid. You can take the kid out of Chicago… These are small problems however, especially since you know this is the type of film you are walking into. No, missing the film isn’t going to hurt you at all. But for a family film that all ages can find something to enjoy without any objectionable material you could do far worse than Martian Child.

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