Movie Review: ‘Mail Order Monster’ is a Tragic and Joyous TaleNovember 16, 2018
When there is a devastating loss in a child’s life, in this case a parent, it is hard to imagine just how the child will react to try and cope. In Mail Order Monster, grief and isolation leads a child to reach out in a bizarre and desperate way to try and deal with the tragedy and the audience is the one who benefits from this sad but uplifting story.
A car accident leaves Sam Pepper (Madison Horcher) without a mother and a best friend in PJ (Emma Rayne). The tragedy here is, besides the obvious loss of her mother, PJ survived only to deal with being involved in the accident with Sam and her mother by becoming a bully towards Sam. This causes Sam to retreat into the world of comic books, missing her friend but desperately wanting her mother back.
To make matters even worse her father Roy (Josh Hopkins) has tried to move on and is now in a serious relationship with another woman Sydney (Charisma Carpenter). Combined with the bullying at school, the isolation and loneliness, Sam finds herself very alone and confused. Sydney tries to get on Sam’s good side by buying her a comic book and it is here that Sam finds an ad for the Mail Order Monster (aka M.O.M.). How this desperate shot for salvation via mail order is the basis of the movie, and sets Sam on a path she never expected.
If you are going to sell a movie like this to an audience you better have a good cast and this one is fantastic. All the different relationships, Sam and her dad, Sam and PJ, Sydney and Roy, Sydney and Sam, they all scream a realism that makes so many scenes believable. Actors Madison and Emma are wise beyond their years and Josh and Charisma make that adult part of the movie easy to imagine while not being overdone. There are flaws in all of these characters which make them seem more human and very real to the audience they are trying to reach.
Writer/director Paulina Lagudi is spot on in terms of both story and direction, moving the characters around in ways that seem appropriate while adding her own spin on what could have been a story we’ve all seen before. Lagudi doesn’t dumb down the script for the audience, instead lets them enjoy a real heartfelt tale that full of sorrow and happiness. Great closeups and quiet moments also show off her directing skills, allowing the actors to really get into the characters and make them their own.
The ‘monster’ of the story is something that you would see from children’s movies in the 80’s and 90’s, such as E.T. Protective, childlike but very interesting to look at, M.O.M. is appealing both visually and verbally, and brought in to the film not to be the focal point but just part of the overall story. This is something that not a lot of films like this execute properly and filmmakers looking to attract that niche step family/broken family/family unit audience should take a long, hard look at what Lagudi and her team have done here.
Mail Order Monster seems almost timeless, like it could waltz into any era and fit right in. A family movie hip deep in tragedy, sadness, redemption and happiness, this is a film the whole family will enjoy.
Four stars out of five