Posted by: jgurner | February 12, 2011

The Cheap Bin – Martian Child

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anita and I pull a lot of movies from the various DVD “cheap bins.” Quite often, they are movies we’ve never even heard of or may have only heard the name. Sometimes we decide to get it because of the cast, or the blurb on the case or we thought we heard something good about the movie. Sometimes I don’t have a clue why we get them. But, since these are often the bulk of the movies we watch, I thought I’d start doing an occasional review. Often, these movies are years, even decades old, but, it’s nice to take a look back at something that might actually be really, really good (or not).

Martian Child


Starring: John Cusak, Bobby Coleman, Joan Cusak (of course)

Directed By: Menno Meyjes; Written By: Jeff Bass, Jonathan Tolins (screenplay), David Gerrold (novella, book)

Movie Gallery Going Out of Business sale – $1

This one had been making its way around the various cheap bins for a while. Typically, it’s not really my kind of movie, but, it’s got John (and Joan) Cusak in it and it’s based on a story by sci-fi author, and inventor of the Tribbles, David Gerrold, so, why not.

The Story: John Cusak is a successful science fiction author who is a recent widower. He and his wife had planned to adopt a child, but when Cusak is told  a child has been found, he decides he no longer wants to adopt. But, he meets the child, Coleman, who wanders around during the day in a cardboard box and who thinks he’s from Mars. He slowly warms up to the child and decides to go through with the adoption and tries to connect with the young “alien” that’s come into his home.

Like I said, not really my kind of movie, unless the child actually was from Mars, then, still probably not. But, it has several things going for it. John Cusak is usually really good even in crappy movies. And, it was interesting to see something non-sci-fi from David Gerrold. It’s a bit ironic that the one movie made from Gerrold’s work is based on his non-science fiction work, though the original novella on which the later novel was based did win awards from the sci-fi writing community.

The story is semi-autobiographical, but the movie made some big and somewhat controversial, changes. The main one is the fact that Cusak’s character is a widower, but Gerrold is gay and part of the original story deals with the subject of gay adoption. And while I agree that changing that to make the movie “more palatable” is a bad movie, adding the other dimension to the story would have probably cluttered up the movie.

Even though you know pretty much exactly what’s going to happen, plot point by plot point, it’s still an enjoyable movie. And even if, like me, this is the kind of movie that tends to send you running screaming in the opposite direction because it is so predictable and you’re not particular interested in the subject matter, it’s still worth it for the Cusaks. In a real stretch, they play brother and sister and have some really great scenes together. Plus, the kid, Coleman, does an excellent job as the seriously screwed up kid. Yeah, you know exactly what the tear jerking moment are going to be, but the rest of it keeps you interested.

I wouldn’t say rush out and buy it today, but if you find it for a couple of bucks or it’s on cable, definitely give it a shot.


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