Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Martian Child and the Adopting Parent

My wife decided it was a good idea to go out and see Martian Child a couple of weekends ago. It seemed like family fare and it was about adoption so I guess we had personal interest in the movie. If you don't know already, I have a four-year-old daughter which we adopted from China three years ago. I myself was not looking forward to it, and that's really saying something because I believe that John Cusak could stand in place and do nothing more than pee himself and I would declare it brilliant (I have been a long admirer of most of his career decisions). But even with that being said, I was not looking forward to seeing the movie because it seemed like a Powder-ish or a Simon Birch-like movie, and that is to say that I expected it to suck.

The movie is about David (John Cusak), a famous science-fiction writer and recent widower. In an effort to carry on after the death of his wife, David looks into domestically adopting a six-year-old boy. David is a bit strange, declaring in an interview that he always saw himself as the aliens he wrote about in his books, rather than the humans. Dennis (Bobby Coleman) is a bit strange as well. He believes he is from Mars and is only visiting Earth for a while but will be shipped back later. He spends the majority of his time at the orphanage in a box, protecting himself from what he perceives as the Earth's harmful ultraviolet rays. At first, David is hesitant to adopt wondering who is he - a single male - to take on such a responsibility. When David finds that Dennis is a bit strange like him, he decides to adopt him. Cuteness and hilarity ensues.

It was hard for me to watch this movie and not say "yeah but" a whole bunch. The process that my family and I went through to adopt my daughter, and the process that we're continuing to go through is filled with such highs and lows that I don't know that it ever could be communicated in a two hour movie (actually one hour and forty-eight minutes). Or more importantly that it should be communicated at all. And certainly not for "ain't that cute" moments. Midway through the movie Dennis performs a strange alien-like dance in the living room of David's house. At first, David finds it odd, but soon he joins in. I could hear the sighs and the giggles at how adorable the scene was, but I just couldn't join in. Dennis was a six year-old boy who had been abandoned and abused and it was obvious that he was in serious trouble. He had assumed the role of the Martian Child because it protected him from everyone else. He chose not to belong so he wouldn't have to. In short, Dennis is a deeply troubled boy and I don't believe that's fodder for entertainment. If Hollywood wants to document the process of adopting and the rewards and risks associated with that, I'm perfectly fine with that. But do it without a soundtrack that includes Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr Blue Sky" and without American Sweethearts, Serendipity John Cusak and the oh-so-easy-on-the-eyes Amanda Peet.

And aside from all that, the movie just wasn't very good.


Anonymous said...

That movie looks unbearable.

Dramatic Chipmunk hates it, I'm sure. He also hates other things too:


Burbanked said...

I'm not sure exactly what it is that Cusack's been going for over the past 6-7 movies, but he seems to consistently miss the mark. It's unfortunate because one does sense a depth of talent and emotional truth there; it just hasn't quite married up with the right material in a while.

I'm interested, though, Piper: are there any movies that more accurately capture the kind of emotional highs and lows of the adoption process over the long term? I would think that this would be prime dramatic material for a movie, but usually it's relegated to a character trait or backstory detail, which seems unfortunate.

Sheamus the... said...

ah...disappointing...I miss the old J.C. and the trailer had potiential.

PIPER said...


I completely agree with your point on Cusak's choices. I have been a long time fan, since Better Off Dead and have always found his choices interesting, even if they were not necessarily right. But his recent choices seem very strange.

On to your second question. Before we thought about adoption, movies about adoption were not on my radar, so I did not have a special interest in them. And aside from Martian Child, I have not seen any where adoption was front and center. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the subject of adoption needs to literally be the plot. An honest opinion would point you to the Disney movie Tarzan. At first glance it might seem a bit easy, but that movie is a good message about love without boundaries. But now that you've brought this up, I'm going to keep an eye out.

Anonymous said...

The book that the movie is based on is pretty good - the writer is David Gerrold of STAR TREK "Tribbles" fame.

A widower, eh? In the book, the author is gay.

PIPER said...


I knew it was based on a book and felt that the book probably covered a lot more ups and downs of the overall adoption. And probably felt that the movie didn't do it much justice. I had no idea the main character was gay.