On the face of things, this flick may appear to be a typical sci-fi tale. But's it's really not that at all. This is a pretty straight-forward teen boy coming-of-age story. Only in this case the emotionally tortured and awkward guy and his impossible high school crush really are from different planets.
There are some solid messages here about a young person's longing for love, family and identity. There are self-sacrificial actions in the slightly futuristic mix. And we even get a finger-wag or two at people who make self-centered choices without thinking about the future pain they could potentially be causing.
Like many a tale of teenage exploration, though, the film also launches into some angsty elements that detract from the movie as a whole. Mars-boy Gardner and Earth-girl crush Tulsa leave a trail of stolen vehicles and smoking, damaged property in their wake when they're not snuggled up romantically in a sleeping bag or relishing the road trip scenery. And the film lightly applauds their lying, rule-breaking and destructive rebelliousness as long as it ultimately leads to truth and love.
That sort of cinematic stuff can be navigable if seen through a metaphoric lens. But teens looking at it as a real-world road map, could find themselves adrift somewhere between here and Mars if they miss the movie's other positive themes.