Martian Child
Contrary to popular belief, Gwyneth Paltrow’s head is not in this box.

Theatrical Release Date: 11/02/2007
Director: Menno Meyjes
Cast: John Cusack, Bobby Coleman, Amanda Peet, Joan Cusack

There’s a defense mechanism in all of us to retreat and hold the world at bay … to reserve some small space in our world that’s just for us. For adults, that manifests itself as a day free of anyone else; whether that’s locking yourself in your home and turning off the phone, or taking a solitary drive. For kids, since their imagination hasn’t been worn down by the rigors and stress of adulthood, they can dream up a whole new world to escape to.

In “Martian Child”, that’s exactly what’s happened for Dennis (Bobby Coleman). His biological parents have left him, for whatever reason, and newly widowed David (John Cusack) takes the leap of faith and adopts him. It’s up to them to navigate themselves through their pain and find a common landscape to call home.

It’s a little odd seeing this film so shortly after “Things We Lost in the Fire” because there is a similar feel to the picture. However, whereas that film delved deep into the psychoses of loss, addiction and redemption – “Martian Child” is the feel good alter-ego.

All of the typical ups and downs constitute the film and sometimes I’m annoyed by the simple, by-the-numbers films but in this case, I think it’s exactly what I was looking for. I always enjoy John Cusack, especially when his sister Joan is nearby. Ever since “Sixteen Candles”, it always feels a little wrong when the two aren’t in the same film – like oreos with no milk.

Cusack is predictably good, as he balances both the pain of remembering his late wife and the joy of learning to love again now that this little boy has entered his life. The rapport he builds with his adopted son is a little stand-offish but I was still wiping the sides of my eyes here and there so it must have worked (though I am a big sap).

I still could have done with a more in-depth look at the issues both son and father were dealing with, since I’m a fan of exploring the emotional depths. However, I realize not every film can be a gut-wrenching, powerhouse … that would leave every film goer too drained to keep seeing films.

“Martian Child” doesn’t break any new ground for its genre but I find it impossible not to root for John Cusack – he’s the quintessential American underdog. It’s a charming film with a lot of heart and I’m giving it a solid 3 out of 5. It’s perfect for a rainy afternoon; which is appropos because somehow the filmmakers avoided the clause in Cusack’s contract that he have at least one scene where he’s completely drenched in the rain.