The Martian Child

Young actor does tremendous job

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Ray Baxter
Senior reviewer

I went to see "The Martian Child" -- the story taken from a novel by David Gerrold -- thinking this was perhaps going to be a science fiction flick, but left the theater with a host of new useful parenting tips (not that I necessarily need them at this stage of my life).

David Gordon (John Cusack) continues to be troubled by the tragic death of his fiancée some two years earlier. Despite having a successful career as a science fiction writer, he still feels a void in his life. He looks to fill this by adopting a child, and a local agency contacts him with a child they feel could be a good match.

Dennis (Bobby Coleman) however, is not your typical 6-year-old. He was abandoned by his own parents and, as a coping mechanism, has taken on the persona of being from the planet Mars. As an example, during the daylight hours, he lives in old cardboard appliance box (with cutouts for viewing when he moves around), so Earth's stronger rays from the sun will not harm him. Dennis also wears a belt (made from dead D-cell batteries), so he won't drift away due to the differences in gravity between the two planets.

Perhaps because of David's science fiction background and his own fantasy-filled childhood, he is drawn to Dennis and they quickly begin to bond. At first, David's sister, Liz, (played by real life sister Joan Cusack) strongly cautions her brother on what he is getting himself into with a troubled child; on a deeper level, she does not believe her brother has the capacity or understanding to be a parent.

At times in the movie, you wonder if Dennis really is from Mars, as he seems to have the ability to change traffic light signals at will and communicate with the family dog.

Longtime friend Harlee (Amanda Peet) provides David the moral support he desperately needs to raise Dennis as his own and this begins to move their relationship into a romantic one.

A majority of the movie dialogue takes place between just David and Dennis, but this facet adds to the strength of the storyline, because of the excellent interaction between these two actors.

In particular, I was most impressed with Bobby Coleman's performance -- at only 10 years of age could be one of the youngest actors to ever receive a best actor nomination.

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