Change has not been kind to Sam Pepper (Madison Horcher). Her best friend is now her biggest bully, her unique interests and peculiar personality have left her outside the social circle, and middle school in general is hard! She’s an intelligent, peculiar young girl facing the day-to-day problems of adolescence: how to deal with bullies, who to sit with at lunch, and where to find a quiet place to read. Comic books, art, science, and her relationship with her father (Josh Hopkins) are her sanctuary from the daily struggle. Sam is carefully managing her world, but it’s suddenly flipped upside down due to another big change: a stepmom.
Sam’s father decides to propose to his girlfriend, Sydney (Charisma Carpenter), which sends Sam into a tailspin. In an effort to hold onto life as she knows it, Sam sends off for a “monster” through the mail. Promising to beat up her bullies and solve all her problems, this MOM (Mail Order Monster) seems like Sam’s rescue. But Sam gets more than she bargained for with MOM, which makes her ultimately realize the power of family, friendship, and acceptance.
First, I want to applaud this film for crafting such a fantastically unique young character. Sam is tenacious, odd, smart, and incredibly endearing. Not only is it a well-made and well-written film, it possesses a level of creativity and emotional ingenuity that most kid/tween films don’t. Mail Order Monster tackles tough–and often dark–subject matter in such an entertaining, heartfelt and kid-appropriate way. Sam is obviously having a hard time moving on from her mother’s death; she’s practically frozen in time and unwilling to make any new memories, which leaves her unable to enjoy life. It’s the end of the world as she knows it when Dad decides to marry Sydney. Hoping to somehow stop things from changing and make herself braver or stronger, Sam sends away for a robot defender—a bully to bully the bullies—and perhaps more importantly, a companion. Conveniently the robot’s name is MOM, and through some very cool Frankenstein-esque circumstances, MOM becomes more alive than Sam bargained for.
The Dove Take
The film is dramatic, entertaining, and science-fiction cool. It’s all those things with a unique, dark varnish. But Mail Order Monster really boils down to a scared young girl navigating her emotions, dealing with the past, and opening her heart up to the future. Through this crazy, somewhat cheesy, harrowing adventure with the faux robot mom, Sam is finally able to let others into her world, to trust again, to love again. Mail Order Monster isn’t just robots and extremely cool comic book-style animation, it’s an inspiring, surprisingly lovely film.
Mail Order Monster has been awarded the Dove Approved 12+ Seal.