In the year 2018, Genesis founder Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) realizes his dream when his Magellan-61 crew, led by female astronaut Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery, "Black Swan," TV's 'This Is Us'), blasts off to colonize Mars. But Sarah didn't know she was pregnant and when she dies in childbirth on the red planet, Shepherd decides to keep her son classified. Sixteen years later, Gardner (Asa Butterfield, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children") yearns to meet his Colorado pen pal Tulsa (Britt Robertson, "A Dog's Purpose") and undergoes a medical procedure to strengthen his bones for a trip to Earth that he still might not survive in "The Space Between Us."
British director Peter Chelsom used to be known for quirky little films like "Funny Bones" and "The Mighty," but his latest have been the poorly received "Hannah Montana: The Movie" and "Hector and the Search for Happiness." Working with a screenplay by "Collateral Beauty's" Allan Loeb that crosses "Roman Holiday" with "E.T.," Chelsom fumbles his fiml's sweet romance for preteens with preposterous plot elements and shoddy details.
Having only known scientists, Gardner is a precocious and resourceful kid who hacks his self-proclaimed 'best buddy' robot Centaur (voice of director Peter Chelsom) and uses his pacemaker to open secured entryways. His surrogate mom, Kendra (Carla Gugino), takes pity on the boy and convinces Shepherd, who can't travel to Mars due to his own medical condition, to allow the boy to travel to Earth. After medical quarantine determines his heart cannot withstand earth's gravity, Gardner escapes rather than be sent back.
Gardner finds his way to Tulsa's high school, but their initial meeting isn't what he expects. Tulsa, a toughened, wary foster care child, is angry Gardner 'dropped off the earth' after telling her he was coming for a visit and his eventual explanation that he was traveling from Mars, not New York, doesn't go over well either. But Gardner's oddity combined with the team tracking him down convinces her and the duo set off to find the man pictured with Sarah in the boy's cherished photo of his parents.
Robertson and Butterfield haven't had a strong track record picking projects, a shame, really, because the two young actors work well together, Butterfield's open, awkward honesty tempering Robertson's tough exterior, Loeb supplying them with charming riffs. It is the bigger picture around them that fails to convince, beginning with the astronaut's undetected pregnancy that kicks this whole adventure off. A biplane crashes into a barn, creating a jet level fireball. Car after car is stolen with no ramifications. A dire medical emergency turns into a ludicrous foray into "Space Camp." A third act twist is obvious from the outset. Gardner, who can watch foreign films like "Wings of Desire" on Mars, is freaked out by his first encounters with a dog and a horse on Earth. And speaking of Earth, why does everything look so much the same in 2034?
"The Space Between Us" is strictly for an undiscriminating PG13 set.
Robin did not see this film.
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