Sunday, May 14, 2017

Video review: "The Space Between Us"

Part science fiction, part road movie, a whole lot angst-y teenage romance, “The Space Between Us” shows the limits of what you can do with a good cast of actors.

Asa Butterfield is a talented young thespian (“Hugo,” “Ender’s Game”), Britt Robertson has stood out in some not-so-great flicks (“The Longest Yard”), and Gary Oldman is, of course, Gary Frickin’ Oldman. Toss in Carla Gugino as a supporting figure, and that’s more talent than most movies can muster.

Alas, the story (screenplay by Allan Loeb) is a mish-mash of random themes and plot threads that don’t weave themselves together in any sort of coherent way. It ends up feeling like a combination of the old David-Bowie-as-space-alien movie, “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” with a human boy standing in for the cute outworlder being chased by a small army of scientists and law enforcement.

The set-up is that Gardner Elliott (Butterfield) is the first human born on Mars – an accident, as his mother and the leader of the astronaut expedition got herself pregnant shortly before takeoff. Now 16, he’s a super-smart kid with obvious impulse issues and a clinging longing for a chance to walk on Earth -- preferably in the company of a cute teen girl.

Tulsa (Robertson) is the gal in question. They’ve been communicating via video chat and messages for a while. She’s a tough outcast sort, so they share a sense of loneliness.

Through a lot of high-tech hi jinks, Gardner manages to get himself to Earth and, eventually, hook up with Tulsa. Unfortunately, after growing up in a low-gravity atmosphere, his body isn’t very suited to Earth’s weight. Ignoring the advice from the NASA eggheads, he and Tulsa run off together for an adventure.

After landing the girl, tops on his list is finding out who is father is. All Gardner has to go by is a photo he found in his mother’s stuff. (She died, of course, because otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie.)

Leading the chase for them is Nathaniel Shepherd (Oldman), a super-rich entrepreneur who dreamt up the Mars colony years ago, but has become something of a recluse ever since. He’s very fidgety and prone to neurotic outbursts, and seems able to command government troops and resources with a phone call, for some reason.

Director Peter Chelsom (“Hannah Montana: The Movie”) can’t manage to sustain a consistent tone to the movie or a steady emotional keel from his actors, so it’s not surprising that they seem to go off in different directions from each other. For Butterfield, that means coming across rather flat, while Oldman is a whirligig of haphazard behavior. Robertson tries to break out of the teen romcom prison bars the movie puts her behind.

“The Space Between Us” is a stellar idea for a film that never achieves liftoff.

Bonus features include five deleted scenes and an alternate ending. There is also a feature-length commentary by Chelsome and a 4-minute featurette, “Love.”



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