Weird is undervalued nowadays. With the homogenized ubiquity of frappuccinos and flat-front chinos, a good dose of odd is inviting, if not needed. This is what makes the inventive Martian Child so refreshing, fun and seemingly otherworldly. One of the most unique films of 2007, Martian Child envelops you with a warm and wide-eyed curiosity that is incredibly touching and joy to witness.
With a comfortable foothold in the modern world, the film is about a soon-to-be-adopted young boy that lives in a box and thinks he’s from Mars. How great is that!
Of course, most children have unrealistic perceptions about the world around them. However, pale, raspy-voiced Dennis (Bobby Coleman) believes with all his being that he comes from the planet Mars and that his alien brethren will come to pick him up some day. Dennis is so stalwart in his position that it’s quite the movie-long mystery of whether he’s actually telling the truth. Can he really make traffic lights change? Is he able to give someone a Martian Wish?
Moving the inquiry along is John Cusak, who plays a recently widowed science-fiction writer that, naturally, sees a bit of his own awkward self and imagination in Dennis. The adoption is filled with conventional, awkward moments of father-son bonding, grounded, however, in an alien context (literally). Social conventions and childhood scenarios, such as bedtime and eating, take on a whole new meaning.
As the two move in together, each is equally curious of the other. The process and dialogue that evolves is sensitive and wonderfully entertaining, as Cusak relies on his staple, intellectual smarty-pants drawl and Dennis surprisingly holds his own with far less effort — short, pointed retorts that you can’t help but smile at. Maybe that’s evidence of his Martian power?
Complementing the male duo is deadpan humorist Joan Cusack and the ever-smiling hottie, Amanda Peet — movie sister and ambiguous love interest, respectively. The two bring enough estrogen to the movie to make it more a deeper family story, as opposed to one simply about buds and male shenanigans.
As a whole, Martian Child is not only alien in plot, but also in execution. The pairing of Cusack and Coleman is delightful and produces an uncommon chemistry that makes the film one of the best of this year.