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Adoption lite

Movies | Martian Child says very little about real family sacrifice

Issue: "Reinventing Hillary," Nov. 17, 2007

About five minutes into Martian Child (PG for language), starring John Cusack, comes a remarkable exchange. Cusack plays David, a successful science fiction writer and recent widower who, because he "wants to do something meaningful," adopts an emotionally abused child (Bobby Coleman) who thinks he's from Mars.

Parked in his car across the street from the adoption center, he is surprised at his car window by a young girl. He's so startled that he utters a blasphemous interjection. This prompts the precocious munchkin to respond, "Jesus was important, but the other religions are just as relevant." David decides that this insight is so advanced he flatters her by saying, "When you're president, please don't take away my Social Security." Then in almost the very next scene, when one character warns him that child-rearing is difficult, he quips, "You should work for Planned Parenthood."

If only other films were so quick to announce that their ethical worldview is from, well, Mars, then filmgoers could walk out early.

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Of course, Martian Child is something of a stalking horse. It represents itself as a poignant film about the emotional bonds of family; in reality it's self-congratulatory dreck that, somewhat along the lines of Fred Claus, says very little about the costs and benefits of familial sacrifice.

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