[Screen It]


(2007) (John Cusack, Bobby Coleman) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
None Minor Moderate Mild None
Moderate None None None Minor
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild None Moderate Moderate Minor

Drama: A science fiction novelist mourning the death of his wife finds companionship and family with a six-year-old who thinks he's from Mars.
Science fiction writer David (JOHN CUSACK) has writer's block and a pressing contract for a sequel to his very popular previous novel. Still mourning the two-years-ago death of his beautiful wife, David contemplates fulfilling a dream she had, to adopt a child. Though he's uncertain, when he's introduced to six-year-old Dennis (BOBBY COLEMAN) by a social worker named Sophie (SOPHIE OKONEDO), David is moved by the boy's trauma-induced delusion: he thinks he's from Mars. When David is able to coax Dennis out of the big cardboard box where he stays out the sunlight, it appears these two damaged souls can work their way towards a mutual understanding.

David is cautioned against this adventure repeatedly, first by his delightful sister Liz (JOAN CUSACK), who appears perpetually harried by her own sons, and muttering Dr. Lefkowitz (RICHARD SCHIFF), an adoption board member who has doubts that a single man should be adopting at all. At the same time, David finds encouragement and incipient romance with the fiancée's best friend, Harlee (AMANDA PEET). They share sweet memories of their previous, happy times, and serve as equally patient parental figures for the decidedly difficult Dennis.

The family tensions increase erratically. Some days are happy (Dennis hits a softball) and others are sad (David's dog dies, upsetting Dennis and David and initiating a talk about death and abandonment suitable for a six-year-old). Dennis is also in trouble at school, because he not only hangs upside down from the jungle gym but also steals the other kids' belongings for what he calls "study" of human behavior.

David has problems even apart from Dennis. Pressured by his agent Jeff (OLIVER PLATT) and publisher Tina (ANJELICA HUSTON), David eventually has to come up with a manuscript. When they learn it is not the promised sequel but a book about parenting, both are very upset. Eventually, David will need to bring together the sad and happy parts of his life, share them with Dennis and teach the boy to trust in a father who will not leave him.

Perhaps, if they like watching strange or troubled children cope with adult expectations and vice versa. Despite the PG rating, it's not a movie geared toward kids.
For thematic elements and mild language.
  • JOHN CUSACK plays David, a kind-hearted but very sad novelist who wants to adopt a child, partly to honor his dead wife's wishes and partly to fill a gap in his own life.
  • BOBBY COLEMAN is Dennis, the troubled boy David brings into his home and who acts in peculiar ways at times (including pretending he's from Mars).
  • AMANDA PEET is Harlee. David's friend and eventual romantic interest.
  • SOPHIE OKONEDO plays Sophie, a social worker who suggests David and Dennis will be a good match.
  • JOAN CUSACK plays David's sister Liz. She's married with two sons, and advises David on parenting.
  • RICHARD SCHIFF plays the adoption board member who thinks David might not be an ideal father.
  • OLIVER PLATT is Jeff, David's aggressive agent.
  • ANJELICA HUSTON is Tina, David's snobby publisher.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG rated drama. Profanity consists of a minor expletive and a few religious-based exclamations, while some colorful phrases are also present. Some brief, sexually related dialogue is present, as is a brief, passionate kiss.

    A few scenes might be suspenseful or unsettling for younger viewers, and some behavior might be enticing for some kids to imitate. Some bad attitudes are present, which also holds true for some family material and some thematic elements (including human and pet deaths).

    If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

  • None.
  • Dennis looks closely at a gooey snail he finds outdoors (we see a close-up, point-of-view shot).
  • Dennis "hides out" in a cardboard box and refuses to come out.
  • Dennis will only eat Lucky Charms and rebuffs David's effort to feed him a cheese sandwich.
  • Dennis wakes David at night by flashing his camera, and won't stop when David tells him (at first).
  • Dennis steals small items from David and the kids at school (pencils, car keys, photos, David's driver's license), but does so for what he calls "study" of human behavior.
  • A person uses the term "Hey retard."
  • David's publisher is somewhat snotty and imperious toward him.
  • In a scene more tense than frightening, Dennis screams and David comes running to his room, where the (old) dog has died and frightened the child.
  • At the end of the film, Dennis stands on the ledge of a planetarium, as a police helicopter approaches (its noise and big lights might be slightly scary). Dennis believes it's his "ship" coming to fetch him, but he's in danger on the ledge, as David comes to save him.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Nuts" (testicles), "You're weird," "Mom, he's being gross," "Freaky little dude," "Hey retard," "What the heck?," "Shut up," "Harry Bloody Potter" and "Your uncle is nuts."
  • Dennis likes to wear sunglasses all the time, even indoors.
  • Dennis wears a "weight belt" to keep himself on earth (he believes the gravity is weak), and he hangs upside down from the jungle gym at school.
  • Dennis lives briefly in a big cardboard box.
  • Dennis insists he eats only Lucky Charms cereal (he repeats this point several times). When he agrees to eat a hot dog, he pours Pepsi on it, upsetting Liz's boys.
  • Dennis takes photos of everyone and everything he can, sometimes annoying or startling people.
  • Dennis puts a vacuum cleaner to his mouth, believing he is the vacuum cleaner.
  • Dennis steals small items from David and the kids at school (pencils, car keys, photos, David's driver's license).
  • When Dennis accidentally breaks a vase, he's afraid David is mad. David makes him feel better by inviting him to break "stuff" (lots of plates), and then they squirt each other with dish soap and ketchup in the kitchen, a very happy scene until Dr. Lefkowitz shows up and intimates that David is doing poor parenting.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least one 1 hell, 4 uses of "Jesus" and 2 uses of "Jesus Christ."
  • Harlee tells David that his wife told her he was "good in bed."
  • David narrates his dog Somewhere's behavior: "Somewhere, a dog, barked and then he licked his nuts."
  • David invites Harlee to spend the night (in the guest room), then both are embarrassed and try to make jokes (none explicit).
  • A brief passionate kiss between David and Harlee embarrasses both.
  • None.
  • We see David visiting his wife's grave. Later, he appears sad while looking at photos of her.
  • Somewhere the dog dies (there's brief glimpse of the body) and David cries, and Dennis tries to comfort him.
  • When Dennis accidentally breaks a vase, he's afraid David is mad. David makes him feel better by inviting him to break "stuff" (lots of plates), and then they squirt each other with dish soap and ketchup in the kitchen, a very happy scene until Dr. Lefkowitz shows up and intimates that David is doing poor parenting.
  • On Christmas, Liz tells David, "You guys are really struggling," and he takes offense, packing up Dennis and deciding to leave the family dinner. Liz and David's argument occurs mostly unheard and in the background, as Dennis is fascinated by Christmas lights on the lawn.
  • David is pulled over by a traffic cop, then yells at Dennis for taking his license after the officer asks him for it and he can't find it.
  • Dennis runs away, hiding out at the planetarium. David, Liz, and Harlee panic, and then rush over to the planetarium.
  • Kids who imagine themselves apart from the community or family (adopted, alien).
  • Dealing with the death of a loved one.
  • Dealing with the death of a pet.
  • Accepting someone who's different.
  • Pursuing artistic or other goals that others demean.
  • Entertaining fantasy or delusion in order to help someone work through issues.
  • When Dennis accidentally breaks a vase, he's afraid David is mad. David makes him feel better by inviting him to break "stuff" (lots of plates).

  • Reviewed October 23, 2007 / Posted November 2, 2007

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