'The Space Between Us' Review: Love reaches from Earth to Mars and back again

If you need a cute, fun distraction from the world, you could do worse than The Space Between Us. If nothing else, the teen space drama has one hell of a premise to consider: What would happen if an astronaut turned out to be pregnant mid-trip to Mars? 

(Editor's note: The following contains spoilers for the film.)

The answer — as writer Allan Loeb of Collateral Beauty (God bless him) and director Peter Chelsom of Shall We Dance? devised it — is to have the baby on Mars and, after his mother dies in childbirth, let the team of scientists living and working on the red planet raise him. It takes a village — sometimes, that village just happens to be on Mars.

We flash forward to when the child, Gardner, played by Asa Butterfield, is a brilliant teenager with a curiosity about the blue planet he never got to see. He's in contact with a mysterious teen girl, Tulsa, played by Britt Robertson, and is eager to see Earth. But no matter how much love he has for the planet — or for the girl on it — he's stuck with a body that grew itself in a different atmosphere. He won't survive on Earth.

Yet he goes anyway, meeting Tulsa and having an adventure. It's a sweet, charming ride, albeit one that you may forget by the time you leave the theater.

The biggest issue with Loeb's script, which is otherwise a notable improvement over Collateral Beauty, is how awkwardly it shifts from story point to story point. When Gardner shows up on Earth, surprising Tulsa at school and asking for her help, she registers surprise for a millisecond before accepting the situation and moving on with the plot. 

Gardner's personality is inconsistent, too. On Mars, he's witty and conversant, while on Earth, he's incredibly socially awkward. Butterfield is charming enough to sell both versions of Gardner, but the lack of transition makes it feel like he's giving two different performances.

Robertson is good, as is most of the ensemble cast including Carla Gugino and Gary Oldman — and really, the cast is the main reason to see the film. They pave over holes in the plot with sheer charisma and manage to sell an outlandish premise well. They're worth investing in, even if you don't quite get what's happening to them.

Ultimately, how you feel about The Space Between Us will come down to how much you need an easy afternoon at the movies. If you're all Oscar-ed out and want a simple pleasure, there are far worse movies you could see. If you've got a waiting Netflix queue, however, it might not be worth your money or time.

The Space Between Us hits theaters Friday.

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