November 6, 2018 Mail Order Monster (Movie Review)
Childhood can be wonderful, but it is also filled with potentially traumatic events. Losing a parent at any age changes everything, but it is sometimes more devastating when it happens to a child. They do not always completely comprehend as this might be the first death they have experienced. Something has to push the child forward and help lessen the pain of the loss. Written/directed by Paulina Laguidi and co-written by Marc Prey, a monster is just the thing, Mail Order Monster becomes available digitally on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 through Film Mode Entertainment.
The story picks up three years earlier where Sam Pepper (Madison Horcher: K.C. Undercover series, Adventures in Babysitting 2016), her former best friend PJ (Emma Rayne: Lyle I Don’t Know How She Does It 2011, Mr. Mercedes 2017), and her mom Wendy Pepper were in a terrible car accident. The accident claimed the life of Sam’s mother and it changed the two girls’ lives dramatically. Sam becomes withdrawn and hides inside her comic books, and PJ, once her closest confidant, is now her main bully at school. Through all the turmoil, the only thing Sam wants is her mother back.
Sam’s father, Roy (Josh Hopkins: Cougar Town series, Quantico series), has been seriously dating Sydney (Charisma Carpenter: Angel series, The Expendables 2010). Sydney attempts everything she can to get Sam to accept her. The main issue is that Sydney is not Sam’s mother. Sydney gifts Sam a comic book hoping to gain some good graces. Things at school are becoming unbearable for Sam. The changes at home are not helping her state of mind. On the back of the comic there is an add for a Mail Order Monster (Jeremy Aubrey: Summer of ’67 2018).
In an act of desperation, Sam orders it, hoping it will change her life. The monster, aka M.O.M., immediately becomes Sam’s lifeline. Sam cannot get past the death of her mother. She can no longer handle the bullying at school. Now her father wants to marry Sydney. In Sam’s eyes, only M.O.M. can comfort and protect her. But, it is only a machine after all, a mail order monster can never fully provide her with everything she really needs. Can it?
Grief takes control of everyone differently. Most of the time people get stuck when they lose someone so close to them, especially a parent. The monster itself is the catalyst for Sam to move forward. She will always miss her mother, but the guilt and pain has made her withdraw instead of looking toward her future. The monster allows Sam to see past her own world view and allow people back in. The lessons the film portrays is powerful. It allows her to love and trust again.
The casting for Mail Order Monster is spot on. Horcher as Sam is truly believable – she is spunky and obviously highly intelligent. In fact, you will want nothing more than to have her healed and happy. For those viewers that are sensitive, her plight might even cause a few tears to escape. Meanwhile, Lyle’s PJ is the model bully who only acts out because she is unhappy herself. Hopkins’s Roy is the loving single father who is also trying to move on but is oblivious to everything his young daughter is dealing with. Then there is Carpenter’s Sydney, the beautiful and sweet potential step-mom that a child like Sam desperately needs in their lives. Every character and every actor is picture-perfect yet flawed. In a family film, this is necessary so that the children watching will understand that though it can be great, life is never perfect.
A truly fun family film, it is reminiscent of children’s films from the 1980s and early 1990s – minus the monster itself and a few cell phone calls, it is a timeless film that could be set in any era. The monster itself, is a human sized metal mishmash of colors and wires. The jaw is a mix between a pit bull and dinosaur. Colorful wires bouncing from its head and glowing blue eyes make the monster appealing. With a childlike and extremely protective personality, it is almost reminiscent of 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 1999’s The Iron Giant, and other films like it. The major difference is Sam is able to keep her monster hidden until the very end at the dramatic climax. No one is hunting it. Because of that, the film is more pure than most in this genre.
A sweet film that is a definite must see for any family, Mail Order Monster is very deep, but enjoyable to watch. In a climate where children’s films are becoming more and more mature, it is refreshing to see such a big topic being addressed in such an untainted childlike way. It is for these reasons that CrypticRock gives Mail Order Monster 4.5 out of 5 stars.