When things aren’t going your way, when life, as they say, gives you lemons, there’s really only one answer: send twenty-bucks to an address on the back of a comic book and order yourself a monster!
In the three years since young high-school student Sam Pepper, Madison Horcher (“Adventures In Babysitting”, “K.C. Undercover (TV)”), lost her mom in a car accident, her father Roy, Josh Hopkins (“Quantico (TV)”, “The Perfect Storm”) is moving on, getting ready to marry his new squeeze Sydney, Charisma Carpenter (“Angel (TV)”, “The Expendables 2”), if that wasn’t enough for Sam to contend with, she’s also being bullied at school, by her old friend PJ, Emma Rayne Lyle (“Blue”, “Mr Mercedes (TV)”).
Sam answers the ad in the back of a magazine and sends away for a Mail Order Monster which, after a particularly Mary Shelly-esq night, comes alive with a little help from a necklace Sam places around its neck, one given to her by her mom.
Mail Order Monster is a lovely family movie. It has a big heart and writers Marc Prey (“Soccer & Drinks (TV)”, “Paid In Full”) and Paulina Lagudi (“This Is How (Short)”, “Bathtub (Short)”) – who also directs – have done an amazing job with what, one suspects, is a fraction of the budget of a lot films.
Whilst the story takes a touch too long to get going, to get to the monster bit, dwelling a little too much on the bullying and anger from Sam, it is lovely when it kicks into gear.
The dynamic between father and daughter is lovely to see and, whilst we can appreciate Sam’s heartache at her father moving on with his life whilst hers feels like it’s doing anything but, you can also see the other side of things and that she’s being a tad-brattish at times.
This is a testament to Horcher who does a stellar job in the lead role, she’s certainly the one that grabs your attention when she’s on screen. Hopkins is also good in the role of dad, a man trying to do his best, help his daughter through these tricky times of her life.
When the monster arrives, and happens to call itself MOM, emotions peak and both Sam and PJ run away from home, not together, just a coincidence, and find each other beside a lake, where Sam used to go with her mom.
The robot has been taught, by Sam, that both PJ and step-mom Sydney are bad and takes a frightening turn whenever it realises either are in proximity. This leads to the final ‘showdown’ before everyone hugs and the sun comes back out.
Lagudi uses an excellent piece of comic book storytelling to kick the movie off. Taking us through the panels as we learn the story behind the car accident. Whilst, in this moment and the few other times this cartoon/comic book effect are used, its wonderful and a nice touch, it’s much less successful when employed at the end.
I suspect, and can’t confirm this, but suspect it was used at the end for budget reasons. Rather than us see the ruckus that takes place between all involved, we instead flip to comic book mode and see it through that. This leaves you feeling somewhat cheated, so I hope I’m right in my assumption and that it wasn’t for stylistic reasons.
That aside, and the slow start, Mail Order Monster is a lovely family movie that your young kids will love.