Film Review: “The Space Between Us”

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson and Gary Oldman
Directed by: Peter Chelsom
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hrs
STX Entertainment

Our Score: 1 out of 5 Stars

Have you ever seen a movie and afterward thought, “well, that’s two hours I’ll never get back?” Well, the makers of “The Space Between Us” owe me four hours. Because that’s how long it felt like it took this sci-fi-rom-com to tell me the story of the first person born on Mars and his quest to visit Earth.

Present day. A manned mission is being sent to Mars. Everyone is checked out medically and they’re off. Unfortunately it appears that the programs physician was a doctor, like Bill Cosby used to refer to himself as a doctor. It seems one of the lady astronauts is pregnant. As if she was married to “Bonanza’s” Ben Cartwright, she dies in childbirth, leaving the other astronauts, including the maternal Kendra (Carla Gugino) to raise him. Jump ahead 16 years and the young boy, named Gardner (Butterfield) is a thin, lanky, big-eyed boy longing to know what life on Earth is like. His existence has been kept secret by the mission’s benefactor, Nathaniel Sheppard (Oldman), who comes off here as less Richard Dyson and more Richard Nixon, not wanting the story of the astro-mom’s death to get out, fearing his funding will dry up. Gardner spends his days working around the space station, occasionally breaking the rules by going outside to drive like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. across the surface of the Red Planet. To appease Garner, they decide to operate on him, strengthening his bones with carbon rods and installing an item nears his heart because, in the weightless gravity of Mars, his body will not develop properly. His heart will become too big and the journey to Earth may kill him. Sadly, it doesn’t.

What a horrible film! While I applaud the premise the execution is horribly hit and miss. It’s as if the filmmakers already know that the audience has checked out of this film at the 10-minute mark. While on Mars, Gardner makes an Internet (Inter-world) chat partner who goes by the name Tulsa (Robertson). Tulsa is a foster child who lives with an alcoholic crop duster pilot, who apparently only lets her live with him for the monthly check. Gardner has told Tulsa that he lives in a Penthouse apartment in NYC and can’t go outside because of a medical condition. Tulsa just assumes Gardner is afraid to meet up. When he returns to Earth, Gardner easily escapes (apparently there are NO security guards at NASA, where people come and go, interrupting space missions and press conferences with ease) and meets up with Tulsa. They duo begin a journey to find Gardner’s father, a man he’s never met, going only on a photo of his mom and the man outside a beach house. Of course, like E.T., in the Earth’s gravity and atmosphere Gardner begins to get sick. Will he survive to meet his pop? After what you’ve just read, do you still care?

The film is full of horribly bad clichés and unbelievable plot points. A trip to the local warehouse store, where they purchase items using stolen cash and credit cards, reveals that Tulsa is a budding, and terrible, songwriter. Even though they are being hunted down she takes the time to sit at the electric piano display at COSTCO and serenade anyone within earshot. They then head to Vegas, where Tulsa takes advantage of the Strip to show Gardner “the world,” including Paris, Shanghai and Venice. Keeping one step ahead of the law, they decide to steal an unassuming car. Apparently the highways are full of bright red early 1970s Lincoln Continental convertibles, because not once do they attract the attention of law enforcement. When they reach the beach, Gardner comments that in the past few days he’s done things he always dreamed of, like touch water. What in the hell do they shower with on Mars (or any space station). And why did all of the establishing shots of the Mars compound show Gardner constantly walking over a footbridge, under which is a pool of water. Was the kid too damn lazy to just walk over to the edge and put his hand in? Believe me, the only thing this movie is missing is Chloe Grace Moretz, who has starred in my choices as the “Year’s Worse Film” twice in the past three years (“If I Stay” and “The 5th Wave”). Thankfully I think I’ve found my winner for 2017 so the next 11 months of movie-going should be enjoyable for me. Director Chelsom also gave us “Hannah Montana: The Movie,” which means I’m pretty sure what’s going to be playing on the double-bill at the drive-in in Hell.

I’ve always said that I’ll give any film at least one star because it’s in focus. This movie was in focus. Do yourself a favor and put as much space as possible between yourself and “The Space Between Us.”