On Screen: Martian Child

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MARTIAN CHILD | Cusack, Coleman shine, but script is dull

(Note: spoiler alert)

Let me say this: I can get psyched up about a movie. I especially love the anticipation of what looks to be a good film – seeing the previews and then waiting the month or two before it’s released, or reading the various fall movie previews in USA Today and other publications. Predictably, my hopes are often dashed when many of the films I’ve looked forward to are released. My expectations are often too high.

“Martian Child,” which stars John Cusack, is one of those films. Both Cusack and Bobby Coleman, who plays Dennis, a 6-year-old boy Cusack tries to adopt, are great in the film (although I got a little tired of having to strain to hear Cusack’s mostly-whispered lines). But the story is predictable and uninspired because the script is so listless.

Cusack portrays a widowed science fiction writer who considers adopting a boy, Coleman, whose conviction that he’s from Mars has kept prospective adoptive parents at bay.  There are lots of great possibilities here for redemption and discovery and love and happiness, but it just never really develops. “K-PAX” was the ultimate is-he-an-alien-or-not movie in part because you’re never quite sure throughout most of the film whether the Kevin Spacey character, Prot, is from outer space. Until you get Prot’s backstory, you hold open the possibility that K-PAX is real and that Prot is a genuine visitor from another galaxy…and in the meantime, the rest of the script is alive and believable, as far out as it might seem.

Not so with “Martian Child.” You could stop the film at any point and guess, with good certainty, what the next scene would be and how the lines would read. The build-up and backstory are muddled and lifeless and the scenes play out as if they were written in a rush. In the end, the only anticipation I had was checking the time in the film’s last 45 minutes to see how much more of the it I had to endure.

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