By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Mail Order Monster is set to arrive in the inboxes of many VOD services come November 6th, and this work written by Paulina Lagudi and Marc Prey will certainly tug at the heartstrings. It’s a very family friendly film worth talking about and thematically, it wants to be like The Iron Giant.
When Sam Pepper (Emma Rayne Lyle) has no friends and she is still not over the loss of her mom, she has no one to turn to. Not even her dad is being helpful. He’s ready to move on, and this young girl wants to hold on to her past. With no one to turn to, she only has her books. When she finds an ad for a mail order monster in a comic to help, she breaks open the piggy bank.
In what she receives, the courage came from within instead of the box of parts. Lagudi and Prey’s screenplay is smart. They look at life through Sam’s eyes and slowly reveals her realization that she does need to reach out for help. Whether that’s because she’s being bullied or a she’s getting a new mom, the message—to understand you are never alone—must be recognized. This tale is terrific at showing how she achieves inner strength. The robot is a quick fix. As the acronym implies, she’s a surrogate M.O.M., but its eventual threatening nature becomes the plot device to move the tale forward. It takes its role as caretaker much too seriously.
Modestly budgeted sci-fi/fantasy style films are often a tough sell because sometimes the effects department do not get the money required to realize those fancy sequences. I enjoyed how the comic book panels are used to navigate difficult action. To use the drawn medium to heighten the clash between a cardboard robot and “the military” is a smart move in Laguidi’s part. She also serves as director.
Charisma Carpenter is a recognizable name, and to see her play mom instead of her role in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series makes for an amusing connection for those in the know. As Sydney, the woman whom Sam’s dad is courting, she’s very warm and sympathetic. She wants this young girl’s approval and does everything possible to help her adjust. This subplot is very important and invites viewers to discuss why change matters.
Family also matters too. When life drags you down, there’s no need to hide. The story offered here is feelgood and reminds everyone that happiness can be achieved as long as you are willing to accept the help offered. Quick fixes rarely work in the end.
4 Stars out of 5