If you came of age in the 1980s, John Cusack holds a special place in your formative filmgoing experiences. While movie jocks and nerds battled it out, Cusack was the guy who listened to the Clash, cracked wise and turned nice-guy dweebiness into a symbol of misfit empowerment. In the real-world equivalent of a teen flick, you would never be a hunky Matt Dillon type, but you could be Lloyd Dobler. Despite the fact that Cusack’s new movie is about a man who adopts a mentally disturbed child, the actor continues to bank on yesteryear’s high-school hipster persona. Even as a fortysomething, he still comes off as the coolest dude in your sophomore English-lit class.
But the question is whether the pleasure of watching him dust off vintage Cusackisms, especially once his sister Joan shows up (do producers get a bulk deal if they cast both?), is enough to sustain pure pop-psychology pablum. Cusack’s character, a widowed sci-fi writer, recognizes a fellow damaged soul in a foster kid (Coleman) who believes he’s an alien. All that’s left is the healing, and Menno Meyjes (Max) handles this Nick Hornby–esque story like a special Oprah episode. Throw in some muted magical realism, and you’ve got everything you need for a fine performance undercut by banal storytelling.