What is it like to lose a parent? There is a sense of devastation, sadness, and even anger that can really shake a young child to the core. Over time, emotions can wax and wane but there comes a point of acceptance that needs to be reached. The most troubling part is when the other parent begins to not only start dating again, but actually finds love.
Mail Order Monster, directed by Paulina Lagudi, tells the story of Sam (played by Madison Horcher) who is trying to come to terms with her mother’s passing. It doesn’t help being relentlessly bullied at school and realizing that her father, Roy, has slowly slipped away into a new romance. Sam’s future “step-mother” Sydney, is trying desperately to fit into the family and Sam wants absolutely no part of it. Sydney decides to surprise Sam with a rare comic book, in hopes to win her over, but the slight affection that Sam begins to show her, ends up backfiring after Roy decides he is ready to be re-married. The thought of replacing Sam’s mother is too hard for Sam to imagine and so she sends away for a mail order monster (an ad found on the back of the comic that Sydney got her) for comfort.
The box arrives at Sam’s doorstep in a huge wooden crate with the words MOM printed on the outside (an anagram of Mail Order Monster). Sam goes into the shed and builds the robot monster, keeping it a secret from everyone. The monster comes to life and begins to take on the mannerisms of Sam’s mother, which becomes an endearing part of the movie. There is a heart-warming scene too when MOM (the name of the monster) brushes away a single strand of Sam’s hair and they make a pact to always be there for each other.
The monster is definitely quirky, just like Sam. It looks fragile yet has intuitive thinking capabilities. It reminded me a bit of Johnny 5 (Short Circuit), Chappie and The Iron Giant all rolled up into one. The pace of the movie had some lagging parts, especially the drawn-out scenes when the monster was walking, which I think could have been executed better.
The film was done in a live-action style, which was pretty interesting and even though there were some funny scenes throughout, it gets dark…and for a family drama, take note parents to sit down and discuss with your kid(s) how they felt. I could appreciate the more violent moments done in a comic strip sequence. It was a creative approach to take instead of totally censoring the violence and disturbing scenes (similar to the opening with Sam’s mother’s death).
Although some of the plot left gaps and aside from Sam’s performance, the rest of the cast fell a bit flat, the guiding message that really holds strong in this movie is that whether in life on Earth or with the angels above, a mother’s love for her daughter is never forgotten.