A review of “The Martian Child” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG for mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

 

 

John Cusack is the only bright spot in an otherwise sentimentally sloppy drama that telegraphs its plot points with a blinding laser beam.

Cusack is science fiction author David Gardner, a successful but lonely widower for whom penning a Harry Potter in space series isn’t offering adequate satisfaction.

When David decides to adopt his inner circle calls him crazy. Especially when he’s drawn to a boy (Bobby Coleman as Dennis) who spends his days in a giant amazon.com box and insists he’s from Mars.

Peculiar meets quirky as the misunderstood adult cottons to his juvenile equal. But even David has difficulty dealing with a child who refuses to take off his weight belt (he’ll float away), bestows Martian wishes and takes Polaroids of random oddities in order to successfully complete his earthly mission.

Naturally they power through their experiences courtesy a series of crafted for laughs (and tears) vignettes that almost have David convinced Dennis is the real deal.

“Martian” tugs so hard at the heartstrings they threaten to snap, stretched taut by the notion of shared alienation and pathos. Dennis is a pale, winsome weirdo who resembles a pre-pubescent Andy Warhol on his best days. Abandoned, emotionally abused and thinks he’s from outer space – he’s entitled to his denial but I don’t have to bite.

Oliver Platt plays the sycophantic agent for the umpteenth time while Amanda Peet phones in the love interest/girl next door. Cusack sis Joan plays “normal” suburban housewife and that speaks volumes. Not their fault that the script is a cloying cacophony of clichés.

Only Cusack’s perfectly engaging balance of eccentricity and sensitivity scores points and keeps “Martian” from falling to Earth with a resounding thud.