David (John Cusack) is a very popular, albeit very lonely, science fiction writer. His wife has passed away and he wants to expand his family. He decides on a whim to adopt a child. After making a connection with a nearby foster home, he meets Dennis (Bobby Coleman). Dennis is a seven-year-old boy who believes with all his heart and soul that he is from Mars. This provides many obstacles for David, a first-time parent trying to adopt a child with obvious special needs, but the two form a bond and eventually become the family that both of them desired so much.
First and foremost this film would not work as well as it does if Dennis was not perfectly cast. He is. Newcomer Bobby Coleman steals the show as Dennis. And he steals the show away from John Cusack no less! With his quirky behavior and his curious eyes and his bright red Macaulay Culkin smile, Coleman is a charmer. I watched this movie once by myself and then again with my children and both times I even wondered: Is he REALLY from Mars? He must be! He’s so convincing! This kid is going places. Hopefully not the same places Macaulay Culkin went, but still. He’s a great little child actor.
John Cusack is a favorite of everyone. Really, I don’t think I’ve met a single person who doesn’t like John Cusack. From Say Anything to 1408, he rarely makes a bad movie. Personally, I love when he does movies with his sister Joan. They play off each other so well. That and I just love the way that she talks. She makes some of the funniest faces. Adding in Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt and a cameo by a nearly unrecognizable Angelica Huston, simply put, the cast is stellar.
The core theme of Martian Child is a very relevant one. Should you change who you are just because everyone else doesn’t believe you or think that it’s the way you should behave? Should you be like everyone else? Dennis really believes he’s a Martian. He even wears a “holding down belt” so he doesn’t float away. How do you know that he’s not who he says? He wears weird clothes and does things a different way. Is that so bad? Even though Dennis is just a small child and should probably be scolded and told that it’s just not true, David embraces his quirkiness and therefore breaks Dennis of his need to feel isolated. The need to feel welcomed no matter what is a basic need that everyone shares.
Even though Martian Child has some very heavy thematic elements, it’s still appealing to the target audience: kids. There are some really funny moments in the movie. Dennis says and does some things that are so against the norm that kids of any age will giggle at them. For example, when given a grilled cheese sandwich (what kid doesn’t like grilled cheese?), Dennis shoves it aside and simply says quietly, “I like Lucky Charms.” When he’s told that grilled cheese is good and David used to love it when he was a kid, he pushes it aside and firmly yet quietly says, “I like Lucky Charms.” My seven-year-old got a kick out of this. This is not how you behave at the table! Oh how silly Dennis is! Throughout the film there are several really funny situations where Dennis tries to fit in and follow “Earth rules.”
Presented in widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The movie is beautiful to look at. They discuss in some of the extras that they specifically designed Dennis’s costumes to be especially drab against the background of color of the rest of the world. The color comes through beautifully.
We get Dolby Digital sound with this release and I have to be honest, there’s not really that much in the film to push the Dolby to its limits. It’s always nice to have though. The film also provides the option for Spanish subtitles.
Previews: Typically I wouldn’t really mention them, but there are so many on Martian Child. The one that specifically caught my interest was Run, Fatboy, Run, the newest Simon Pegg movie. Looks like a romantic comedy, but if Simon Pegg’s in it, it’s gotta be good.
Deleted Scenes: Deleted scenes usually just serve to point out some of the good calls on the part of the film’s editor, but in this case there were some cute ones. These are actually worth watching. It was the first time that I actually wanted more of the deleted scenes.
Handle With Care: Working with the Martian Child: A fairly long – pushing 25 minutes – featurette about the casting of Dennis and about Bobby Coleman’s life on set. It showed a lot of behind the scenes footage, mostly shot by Bobby’s parents who captured most of their son’s experience on their home video camera.
The Real Martian Child: Now this is the extra that I was most intrigued by. This feature explains the background of the real David. The real David (author David Gerrold) is the guy who…get this…wrote the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”. Yes! It’s that same guy! The events in the film really happened to him and there are several interesting interviews with the real David and the real Dennis. This one’s worth watching!
|The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Martian Child
||(OUT OF 10)
||8(NOT AN AVERAGE)|
The Inside Pulse
Writing the rating for Martian Child, I can hardly believe it myself that I’m giving it an 8. Some may argue that the film is too sentimental, too sappy, too sweet, but I think that it’s a great family film. One that adults and kids will both enjoy together. One that I’ll be recommending and loaning to everyone.