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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Martian Child

****½ Martian Child. Drama.

Directed by: Menno Meyjes
Starring: John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Amanda Peet, Bobby Coleman, Oliver Platt

We watched this weekend before last, courtesy of Netflix. Kind of interesting that last week we watched Identity, which also starred John Cusack and Amanda Peet; and then this week we're watching season one of Heroes, and Clea Duvall, who was the newlywed wife in Identity, is in the episodes we've seen this week. And none of this was planned.

Martian Child could so easily have been one of those sappy, overly sentimental melodramas... but it's not. But because I hate sappy, overly sentimental melodramas so much, I'd have skipped this one if it hadn't starred John and Joan Cusack, two of my absolute favorite actors.

David Gordon (John Cusack) is a bestselling science fiction author (reason #2 guaranteeing I'll like this movie--I'm so predictable!), a wealthy widower. He and his wife had planned on adopting a child: "I don't want to bring another kid into this world. But how do you argue against loving one that's already here?"

Then he meets 6-year-old orphan Dennis (Bobby Coleman) who thinks he's from Mars. Dennis spends his days in a box, is afraid of the sun, wears a weight belt to keep from floating away, only eats Lucky Charms, and says his purpose is "To join a family and to learn human beingness. "

Joan Cusack plays David's sister (go figure), the voice of reason and as a mom, a source of support and advice. Amanda Peet is Harlee, a free-spirited friend who takes all of Dennis's oddities in stride.

It is, yes, heartwarming to watch as David and Dennis become a family--but not in that sickly sweet way. The acting from all the major character is impressive. They seem genuine. And Bobby Coleman is just amazing.

While there are a lot of funny moments in the film, they're not ridiculous. I can't resist adding another video here: . It demonstrates the various sides of the movie very well--and has a nice song, too.

There are also a lot of conversation-starters in Martian Child--like what's wrong with being different? I admit one of the reasons I enjoyed this is that it espouses my own parenting philosophy to allow kids to be themselves. I suspect that someone with a more authoritarian style would enjoy it less than I did. And it's also possible to play with the little details in the film--such as parallels between David and Dennis, and reasons for Dennis's quirks--because they do actually mean something, and aren't just added for silly effect.

Carl shares my parenting style, but he still enjoyed it less than I did because **** mild spoiler **** Dennis turned out not to be from Mars. **** Another one of those cases where what you expect influences how you view something.

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