The Space Between Us
dir Peter Chelsom
scr Allan Loeb
prd Richard Barton Lewis
with Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino, BD Wong, Lauren Myers, Janet Montgomery, Gil Birmingham, Colin Egglesfield, Tim Janis, Trey Tucker, Peter Chelsom
release US 3.Feb.17, UK 10.Feb.17
17/US STX 2h00
The Space Between Us
It's heavy: Robertson and Butterfield

oldman gugino wong
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Space Between Us After setting up an intriguing premise, this sci-fi tinged teen romance is undone by a relentlessly cheesy script that leaves its adept cast holding the bag. It doesn't help that veteran director Peter Chelsom can't resist the temptation to soak every scene in earnest sentimentality. Although even that might not have been so bad if the writing had scratched the surface.

After the first manned mission arrives on Mars, team leader Sarah (Montgomery) dies in childbirth, and her son Elliot grows into a curious, scientifically aware 16-year-old (Butterfield) with the help of astronaut Kendra (Gugino) and a trusty robot (voiced by Chelsom). Now mission creator Nathaniel (Oldman) agrees to bring Elliot to Earth, but Elliot has been secretly chatting to Colorado tearaway teen Tulsa (Robertson), and on arrival, he runs off to meet her. But his physiology isn't quite suited to Earth's higher gravity. Can Tulsa help him find his father before it's too late?

The maudlin ticking health-bomb is straight out of E.T., as is Elliot's name, while other elements are lifted wholesale from Starman. Although it makes no sense that Elliot is so naive about life on Earth when he's watched so many movies. This makes his shocked reactions feel silly. And it doesn't help that there's been absolutely no effort to advance technology or style to the 2034 setting, aside from clear-glass computer screens that are impractical on every level, even though TV and movie designers insist on using them to appear "futuristic".

Thankfully, the cast is watchable even when delivering lame dialog. Butterfield wins over the audience with his funny heavy-gravity gait, also using his expressive eyes to generate some proper emotional resonance. His budding romance with Robertson is only believable as a novelty, but she adds some spiky energy to her cursory, cliched role. Gugino brings a hint of earth-mother kindness, while Oldman does what he can with an almost pathologically thankless role.

All of that said, the film has that superficial slickness that passes for quality with audiences in search of escapism, even if the movie is so simplistic that it will probably only do the trick for under-12 girls. It has the breakneck momentum of one of those inane 1970s Disney adventures, which race past inconvenient plot points and thorny issues on their way to a swoony embrace or achingly predictable revelation. So perhaps if you don't think about the science, the fiction might just about be enough to keep you diverted.

cert pg themes, language, violence 7.Feb.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall