|Lowest Recommended Age:||Middle School|
|MPAA Rating:||Rated PG for thematic elements and mild language.|
|Movie Release Date:||November 2, 2007|
|DVD Release Date:||February 12, 2008|
There’s nothing wrong with a little fakery now and then if it smooths out some rough spots and eliminates some distractions. But this film goes past fakery into condescending phoniness that knocks the story off its tracks. What is frustrating is that it is so unnecessary and intrusive. We start out on the side of the characters, John Cusack as David, the grieving widower, a successful writer of science fiction, and Bobby Coleman as Dennis, a troubled orphan who spends all day in a cardboard box and says he comes from Mars. We want them to find a way to connect to each other. But every time the movie has a choice between what might really happen and ramping up the dramatic tension to raise the emotional stakes, it chooses the latter, until we begin to feel less engaged than resentful. My heart was ready to be warmed. But it never got above room temperature.
David and his wife had planned to adopt a child. After her death, he intends to cancel, but something about the boy in the box reminds him of his own time as a misfit kid. He knows that most people labeled “weird” as children never eradicate the weirdness; they just find a way to push it inside. In a sense, every adult who fits in lives in a kind of a box. Except that Dennis’ box is not only literally labled “Fragile — Handle with Care,” but someone has to point that out, in case we miss the point.
When Dennis says he is afraid of the sun, some ultra-strength sunblock and a gentle game of catch help to coax him out of the box. Dennis says that he is afraid that he will float up into the sky because “Earth’s gravity is weak. Mars is constantly pulling me back,” David creates a weight belt to anchor him to the ground. When he comes to live in David’s house, he tells Dennis to “think of it as a bigger box.”