Friday, February 3, 2017

Boys are from Mars, Girls are from Foster Homes

Here's the thing, anybody brave enough to head to the theaters in the dog days of February knows to lower their standards. The perennial post-Oscar dumping ground is the home of clusterfucks and misfit toys which studios either couldn't or wouldn't put the money behind. Keeping this very important caveat in mind, The Space Between Us is marginally entertaining as it wraps up your standard romantic dramedy in sci-fi trappings while hoping the strength of its cast will obscure its obvious flaws.

Director Peter Chelsom delivers an undeniably schmaltzy movie of a teenager (Asa Butterfield) born and raised on Mars returning home in search of a father he never knew and to spend time with his Internet girlfriend (Britt Robertson) who had to look across the solar system to find a boy to date. The story begins with a mission to Mars where a female astronauts' unexpected pregnancy leads to the first baby born on another world. Rather than heralded as a major achievement, the child's existence is hidden. Embarrased by the event and believing the child could never survive on Earth, the company sidesteps the PR landmine by forgetting about him... for about 16 years.

Butterfield plays the fish-out-of-water well, and there's a nice chemistry between our Martian and Robertson (who is the lone actor who gets to react incredulously to the entire situation). Rounding out the solid cast are Gary Oldman as the head of the corporation who created and funds the Martian station and Carla Gugino as the astronaut drafted into the role of foster mom on Mars. While this one isn't going to go high on anyone's resume, it's far from the embarrassing trainwreck I expected given that the film has sat on the shelf for the better part of a year.

The movie isn't without its groan-worthy moments, the worst of these being our lovers crashing a biplane into a barn which, by the size of the explosion, must have been full of dynamite. There's also the weak foreshadowing of an obvious twist in the film's final act. That said, a bit of charm and a quirky nature can take you a long way (just look at Zooey Deschanel). Despite some pretty good special effects for a film of this type, The Space Between Us doesn't offer much in the way of wonder, but it does provide a mostly harmless, fairly entertaining film that is just as likely to make you smile as roll your eyes from scene to scene. If you have to get dragged to a romantic dramedy this year, you could certainly do worse.

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