Martian Child is a film without an audience. It’s a largely dreary time at the movies and offers next to nothing for the kids that it’s advertising to. That in itself explains the release date musical chairs that New Line Cinema has played. While far from bad, this is certainly a mediocre screenplay that is upped a few pegs by some wonderful performances, particularly from young Bobby Coleman.
David (Cusack) is a newfound widower and is struggling to cope. He’s an accomplished science-fiction author and has suits lined up to turn his novels into films. Burdened by the prospect of never getting to start a family, David begins to pursue adoption. A young boy by the name of Dennis (Coleman) stands out from the crowd on sheer weirdness alone. Dennis spends most of his days crouched under a giant box (with Amazon.com written on it in huge letters, of course) because he “hates the sun.” It becomes known that the boy truly believes he is from Mars, which would make him a good fit for David’s sci-fi mindset. The two, with the help of David’s friend Harlee (Peet), begin their life together – but normalcy this is not.
The bulk of the screenplay (by Seth Bass and Jonathan Tolins) revolves around David desperately trying to get through to Dennis. This might have worked had it been somewhat original. David lets Dennis do basically whatever he wants, and of course the adoption agency clerk shows up at the height of the hijinks and we have to go down the standard “is this the right environment for a child?” path. The sci-fi possibilities are only glossed over, perhaps in an effort to distinguish itself from the forgettable K-Pax.
The good news is that there are some fantastic performances on display. John Cusack is perfect for the role of David and he has superb chemistry with Coleman (whom he worked with in Must Love Dogs). Cusack has always had a calm, caring demeanor about him and his sympathy seeps through the screen. Coleman, with his sunglasses and umbrella, is magnetic as Dennis. He truly does make you stop and contemplate if he actually is from Mars. His climactic scene with Cusack is wonderfully executed. Solid supporting work from Amanda Peet, Joan Cusack, and Sophie Okonedo is worthy of mention.
Martian Child, from a substance standpoint, doesn’t really have a whole lot to offer anyone. Children will be bored stiff by the lack of action and interest in general; adults will likely find the proceedings too amateurish for their liking. Fans of the talent involved may want to give it a peek for the quality acting, but that can easily wait until DVD.
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 108 Minutes
Rating: PG for thematic elements and mild language.
Theatrical Release: November 2, 2007
Directed by: Menno Meyjes
Written by: Seth Bass & Jonathan Tolins. Based upon the novel by David Gerrold.
Cast: John Cusack, Bobby Coleman, Amanda Peet, Sophie Okonedo, Joan Cusack, Oliver Platt