Martian Child (2007)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB

USA, 2007, , Screenplay by , , based on the novel by Cinematography by Produced by , , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by .

plays a science-fiction writer whose sadness over his wife’s death is soon followed by the news that their planned adoption of a foster child has come through. He turns down the opportunity to fulfill this commitment out of grief, but upon meeting the kid is moved to give it a shot, as he is a socially awkward boy who spends most of his time hiding in a cardboard box and telling everyone that he’s a Martian who can’t stand earth’s sunlight. Cusack takes the child home and forms a deep bond with him, at first making the mistake of trying to be friends before eventually realizing that parenting requires a different set of skills.  The story’s first conflict is getting Cusack to convince the adoption board (with once again playing the by-the-book asshole who just doesn’t get it) that he’s a fit parent, but the story goes further by resolving the divide between the two main characters after everyone else puts their concerns away. The film was deeply criticized upon release for the changes made to the true story of David Gerrold, which he chronicled in his book and adapted to the screen, then had his own screenplay rejected in favour of a version that changes his sexual orientation (to heterosexual) and invents a dead wife; on principle this criticism is valid but in practice the film could at least soften that blow by being more interesting than it is. The attempts to go beyond cliché are few and far between, for the most part it’s bland, manipulative nonsense that features such rusty old chestnuts as a food fight (in movies there’s always someone else to clean up, I guess) and, rather than give the youngster (who is portrayed by ) a discernible personality, the film relies on little more than big sad eyes and a scratchy voice.  has a magnificent cameo that brings energy and intelligence to her few moments near the end; in one brief scene, she has an emotional reaction to this story that is not likely to have been shared by the audience.

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