Let me just say a couple things before I let you know what I think of this movie. Sort of get my biases out in the open so you can appreciate where I'm coming from when I review this film for you.
Important Point #1: I REALLY like John Cusack, and more importantly, I like his later work the best.
Important Point #2: I like quirky movies. Movies like Smart People, Stranger Than Fiction, Reign Over Me all appealed very much to me.
Important Point #3: I can really identify with characters that are a little damaged from their childhoods. Usually these characters are too intelligent, or too creative, or too wise for their own good, and end up ostracized from and by their peers. I'll leave you to guess which one I was.
That being said, this is a quirky John Cusack film whose main characters have all been damaged, (some more than others,) growing up as free spirits. So yeah, of course I'm going to like it. And I did.
The film is an endearing tale of a widower science fiction writer (Cusack) that chooses to adopt a troubled young boy. Kids deal with the trauma in their lives in many different ways, but suffice it say most don't create an alternate life for themselves on another planet. The young boy, (played by Bobby Coleman,) is so messed up the only way he can deal with reality is through an elaborate fantasy world in which he's actually an alien visiting from Mars.
I honestly don't think there is any other actor that could have pulled off this character besides Cusack. Cusack's often distracted, and at times frantic acting style fits perfectly here. And honestly I believe Cusack's personal views of the world come shining through, from what I've read of his life away from the wide screen. One has to wonder if maybe that isn't the hallmark of a character played so genuinely well--that no other actor can be imagined playing the role.
To round out the cast Amanda Peet provides an appropriately quirky love interest, and Joan Cusack reprises her over-zealous mother-figure role from Raising Helen to perfection. Oliver Platt, Richard Schiff, and even Anjelica Huston make their appearances.
The movie is rated PG, and I let my 9 y/o watch it with us. There is only mild cursing, and in appropriate situations. This is life, not gratuitous debauchery.
All in all this is a really sweet story that will leave the viewer pondering the true meaning of family and unconditional love.
I give the film an A-.