Martian Child

  • Review Date: February 11, 2008
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 106 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Sweet kid-friendly drama has some mature themes.
  • Review Date: February 11, 2008
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 106 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A man reaches out to a young boy on the fringes of society. The child has been abandoned and has chosen to portray himself as different, which only alienates others. But his adopted dad persists, and, in turn, heals from his own tragedy. His family is pretty supportive, too.

Violence

A father and son throw plates around, but not out of anger. The father also loses his temper, though he quickly regains control of it.

Sex

An awkward-but-sweet kiss.

Language

No swearing, but some insults ("weird," "stupid," etc).

Consumerism

Some products, such as sunblock and sunglasses, are noted, but in general there's no egregious label-pushing (though Dennis certainly does like his Lucky Charms...).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking (by adults) in social situations.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although there's very little in the way of language, sex, and violence in this well-acted family drama, it does deal with some serious themes -- including death (of both humans and pets) and abandonment -- that are on the heavy side for young viewers, who may need guidance understanding what they see. Parents are shown discussing their frustrations with their kids and yelling at them, and kids are shown cruelly teasing a main character and calling him "weird." Some social drinking, but only among adults.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Kids are from Mars, and parents are from, well, Venus. That's the premise behind MARTIAN CHILD, director Menno Meyjes' film based on David Gerrold's novella. The dramedy follows what happens when successful sci-fi writer David Gordon (John Cusack), still reeling two years after his wife's death, adopts a troubled boy named Dennis (a heart-tugging Bobby Coleman). Abandoned by his parents, Dennis is far more distressed than his peers. He speaks his own language, hangs upside down, eats only Lucky Charms, lives in a box most of the time for fear of the sun (David earns his trust by supplying him with loads of sunblock and, later, sharing baseball tips), and steals from nearly everyone. Oh, and he claims he's from Mars. Soon, David's relying on his sister, Liz (Joan Cusack), and his wife's best friend, Harlee (Amanda Peet), for advice, wondering if he's in way over his head.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Part About a Boy and part E.T., Martian Child attempts to maintain a sense of mystery by suggesting that Dennis could perhaps be actually from Mars. (He makes wishes that appear to come true.) Intriguing as this may be, it's a distraction from the film's more interesting questions: Is parenting worth the trouble? Do we expect too much from children? And are we all just separate planets in a massive universe that need to converge to save ourselves from extinction?

Director Meyjes' film boasts impressively strong performances but is hampered by a bipolar script that bounces from touching to treacly and back again and dialogue that's sometimes way too obvious. "Just be yourself," David constantly tells Dennis when, in reality, he expects his son to fall in line with the new world order. A psychiatrist character seems more of a caricature than the smart, empathetic shrink you'd think would make decisions about adoption. And one ultra-dramatic scene two-thirds of the way through the film feels contrived, as if it's placed there to force a moment of connection between David and Dennis. Still, could there be a more naturalistic actor than John Cusack? He's been in a few duds lately, and although Martian Child is no Say Anything, it's certainly a step in the right direction.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about being different. Can standing out from the crowd really make you feel like you're from another planet? Kids: Have you ever felt that way? How did you handle it? Is it easier to be more like your peers? Why or why not? How can you stay proud of your individuality if other kids single you out for being different? Families can also discuss why parents and children are often shown at odds in movies. Are they really all that different? In what ways? Why does this subject make great fodder for Hollywood?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 1, 2007
DVD release date:February 11, 2008
Cast:Amanda Peet, Bobby Coleman, John Cusack
Director:Menno Meyjes
Studio:New Line
Genre:Drama
Topics:Book characters
Run time:106 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements and mild language.

This review of Martian Child was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Educator and Parent of a 8, 10, and 12 year old Written bytcbueti February 19, 2009
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

A great family film

This was a surprise treat--I had watched it and enjoyedit a few months ago, but did not expect my kids, ages 8,10 & 12 to enjoy it as much as they did. They loved seeing a parent struggle with a challenging child, and how much Cusack's character clearly wanted to do the right thing, if he could just figure out what that was. My daughter (10) who has recently been bugging me to let her watch PG-13 romances, which we then find have some seriously older bits in them, said "This was the best movie I've ever seen."
Adult Written bysungirlie13 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 
Kid, 10 years old April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

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