Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Menno Meyjes|
|Screenplay by||David Gerrold|
|Based on||The Martian Child|
by David Gerrold
|Music by||Aaron Zigman|
|Cinematography||Robert D. Yeoman|
|Edited by||Bruce Green|
MERADIN Zweite Productions
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Box office||$9.4 million|
Martian Child is a 2007 American comedy-drama film directed by Menno Meyjes and written by David Gerrold based on his 1994 novelette of the same name. The film stars John Cusack as a writer who adopts a strange young boy (Bobby Coleman) who believes himself to be from Mars. The film was theatrically released on November 2, 2007 by New Line Cinema.
David Gordon, a popular science fiction author, widowed two years prior as they were trying to adopt a child, is finally matched with a young boy, Dennis. Initially hesitant to adopt alone, he is drawn to Dennis because he sees aspects of himself and his own awkward childhood in the boy.
Dennis suffers from the delusion that he is from Mars. He protects himself from the sun's harmful rays, wears weights to counter earth's weak gravity, eats only Lucky Charms, and hangs upside down to facilitate his circulation. He refers often to his mission to understand earth and its people, taking pictures, stealing things to catalog, and spending time consulting an ambiguous toy-like device with flashing lights that produces seemingly unintelligible words.
Once David decides to adopt Dennis, he spends time getting to know the boy, patiently coaxing him out of the large cardboard box he hides in, which becomes a metaphor for coaxing him out of his shyness and into new situations. We wonder if Dennis sees something of a kindred spirit in David that draws him out. Soon, David is cleared to take Dennis home and they meet David's dog, "Somewhere." In Dennis's bedroom is a projector of the solar system that he pronounces inaccurate. With the help of David's friend Harlee and sister Liz, David tries to help Dennis overcome his delusion by both indulging it and encouraging him to act like everyone else. Dennis attends school but is quickly expelled for repeatedly stealing items for his collection. David tells Liz, though it's not clear if he's being genuine or sarcastic, that perhaps Dennis is from Mars.
Meanwhile, David's literary agent, Jeff, encourages David to finish writing his sequel book, already commissioned, which is due soon. David struggles to make time for writing but is regularly pulled into dealing with Dennis's issues. Finally, David hunkers down to write when a flash from Dennis's Polaroid camera catches him off-guard and he accidentally breaks some glass. David snatches Dennis up and carries him across the room. Dennis, upset by David's abrupt action, fears he is going to be sent away. David explains that he was just worried he'd get cut by the glass and that he loves Dennis more than his stuff. Assuring him that he will never send him away, he encourages Dennis to break more things. They move to the kitchen and break dishes and then spray ketchup and dish detergent at each other. Lefkowitz, the decision-maker from Social Services, appears in the window and discovers the mayhem. He rebukes David and sets up a review of the case.
David encourages Dennis to be from Mars only at home; he has to be from Earth everywhere else. Dennis passes his interview by saying he was pretending and continues in David's care. Later, David, now Dennis's adopted father, tries to insist that Dennis acknowledge being from Earth, to which Dennis responds with hurt and anger. David leaves Dennis with Liz to attend the reveal of his new book, which is supposed to be the sequel to his first book. David confesses to Tina, the publisher, that he has not written a sequel, but rather a new book titled, Martian Child, about Dennis. In her fury, Tina makes a scene at the party, but takes the manuscript as David leaves to be with Dennis.
Meanwhile, Dennis has walked away from the house, together with his suitcase of earthly artifacts. When David arrives and finds the police at the house and learns the boy is gone, he remembers the place Dennis had identified as where he was found. David asks Harlee to drive him to the location, where they spot Dennis high up on the outside ledge of the museum's domed roof. David climbs up to where Dennis is as the police and Liz arrive. Dennis identifies a bright searchlight in a nearby cloud as someone coming to take him home, but David tries to assure him that it's just a helicopter. David pledges his love for Dennis and assures him that he will never ever leave him. Eventually Dennis gives in to trusting David and the two embrace.
David's voiceover tells about the parallel of children who come into our world, struggling to understand it, being like little aliens. As we zoom in on Tina reading the manuscript aboard an airplane, we realize these are words from the book. Tina is crying.
- John Cusack as David Gordon - Author and Dad
- Zak Ludwig as young David
- Bobby Coleman as Dennis - "Martian" and Son
- Amanda Peet as Harlee - Friend
- Sophie Okonedo as Sophie - Foster Mom
- Oliver Platt as Jeff - Agent
- Joan Cusack as Liz Gordon - Sister and Aunt
- Anjelica Huston as Tina - Publisher
- Richard Schiff as Lefkowitz - Child Services Authority
- Howard Hesseman as Dr. Berg
- David Kaye as Andy
Despite persistent misperceptions, this film is not based on David Gerrold's semi-autobiographical novelette The Martian Child, but rather is based on his fictional Hugo and Nebula Award-winning short story of the same name, which has caused much confusion about the source material, especially for Gerrold's fans in segments of the gay community. The short story does not reveal the fictionalized protagonist's homosexuality. Only when, years later, Gerrold rewrote and expanded his story to novella length did he choose to reveal his sexuality. While Gerrold had, in real life, adopted a son as an openly gay man, in the film the protagonist is straight and has a female love interest. Though Gerrold has acknowledged that his short story is a work of fiction, and despite the fact that the short story won numerous awards as a work of fiction, some members of gay community persisted in perpetuating the misperception that the short story was "true" and criticized the lead role in the film being portrayed as straight.
Martian Child opened in 2,020 venues on November 2, 2007 and earned $3,376,669 in its first weekend, ranking seventh in the domestic box office and third among the weekend's new releases. The film closed six weeks later on December 13, having grossed $7,500,310 domestically and $1,851,434 overseas, totaling $9,351,744 worldwide. Based on its estimated $27 million budget, the film was a box office bomb.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 33% score, based on 106 reviews, with an average rating of 5/10. The site's consensus states: "Despite some charms, overt emotional manipulation and an inconsistent tone prevents Martian Child from being the heartfelt dramedy it aspires to be." Metacritic reports a 48 out of 100 rating, based on 26 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Martian Child was released on DVD on February 12, 2008. It opened at #20 the DVD sales chart, selling 69,000 units for revenue of $1.3 million. As per the latest figures, 400,000 DVD units have been sold, acquiring revenue of $7,613,945. This does not include DVD rentals/Blu-ray sales. The film is available on Netflix streaming.
|29th Young Artist Awards||Best Family Feature Film||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Young Actor||Bobby Coleman||Nominated|
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- Why the Martian Child’s Daddy Isn’t Gay, May 8, 2007, blog entry from co-producer of Martian Child feature film; via archive.org (page may appear blank but text can be read using browser's "article reader view" or "view source")
- Brian Juergens. "The Martian Child: where'd the gay go?". Afterelton.com. Archived from the original on November 8, 2007. Retrieved October 9, 2008.
- "Martian Child — Movie and TV Reviews". Scifi.com. Archived from the original on June 13, 2008. Retrieved October 9, 2008.
- "Weekend Box Office Results for November 2-4, 2007". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. November 5, 2007. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
- "Martian Child (2007)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
- "Martian Child reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
- "Martian Child". The Numbers.
- "Martian Child". Retrieved March 13, 2018.
- "29th Annual Young Artist Awards". Archived from the original on July 6, 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2012.