We're sure there is a metaphor somewhere in Mail Order Monster (2018) beyond its obvious acronym, M.O.M., but we'll be damned if we can find it. This movie is the feature film directorial debut of Paulina Lagudi, who also helped write the screenplay with Marc Pray. The story is about a young girl named Sam Pepper (Madison Horcher), whose mom died in an automobile accident three years ago. Sam has recently been bullied at school by her former best friend PJ (Emma Rayne Lyle), so she spends most of her lunchtime at school in a closet away from the eyes of her aggressors. On the home front, Sam's dad Roy (Josh Hopkins) is trying to rebuild his life following the loss of his wife. He has been dating his girlfriend Sydney (Charisma Carpenter) for quite some time, and Sam seems to like her just fine until she finds out her father just proposed. Feeling down, Sam orders a "Mail Order Monster" out of a comic book that Sydney gave her. It turns out, this monster is actually a giant robot...not a bad deal for $20 in spare change! We really don't see how this company makes money selling that much hardware for so little moolah, but this is clearly a movie for kids, so we digress. An electrical storm causes the M.O.M. to come to life where it proceeds to do everything Sam asks and also protects her from those who want to cause her harm.
Mail Order Monster (2018) had an adorable trailer and what sounded like a cute concept about a grieving girl who orders a robot through the mail, one that helps her come to terms with an insurmountable loss. We have loved other films with similar premises that use monsters as a metaphor for grief and sadness, films like A Monster Calls (2016) and I Kill Giants (2018). Unfortunately, Mail Order Monster doesn't quite dig into the emotional depth that the two aforementioned films do as it gives a very shallow exploration of the subject. For one thing, this M.O.M. is 100% real and is not a manifestation in Sam's mind. Other people can not only see M.O.M., but they can interact with it as well. Second, this creature is meant to be a stand-in for Sam's mom, but really all it does is act as Sam's domestic servant. Are our robot overlords inching closer to infiltrating our nuclear families?! sarcasm We'd imagine being a parent is not only about cleaning up after your kids. M.O.M. basically just does menial house chores by instinct and throws in a supportive word or two here and there, which we could hardly understand due to its electronic, sometimes distorted voice. We have to wonder what this says about women, that they are only good for chores, since M.O.M. is supposed to be a surrogate for mothers everywhere.
This film is being touted as having strong female characters, and that might be true about Sam, but every other female character is a stereotypical joke. Charisma Carpenter's character Sydney seems to be in the legal profession, but that is only mentioned once in passing. Instead, she gets to take Sam on a "girls day out" where they get manicures, pedicures, and go clothes shopping. Apparently, Sam couldn't do these things with her dad. Why couldn't Sydney have taken Sam to a science museum or a comic book store instead? After all, that is what Sam is into. She shows no interest in nail polish and poofy shoes. Aren't we just about over these tired gendered cliches?
There is also a bizarre series of events at the climax of the film that bothered us to no end. We can't give our honest thoughts about this movie without mentioning a specific plot point, so potential spoiler let's just say M.O.M. inevitably acts out in improper ways and all is essentially forgiven after it assaults and nearly kills several key characters. WHAT?! That robot is as good as next week's trash if it tries to attack someone we love!
Mail Order Monster (2018) is not a total loss as there are a couple of things we did enjoy about the movie. The first is the design of the M.O.M. creature. Though it is clearly a person in a suit, the M.O.M. character has a whimsical, asymmetrical design that we found to be both fun and stylish. The film also utilizes comic book cells to tell parts of the story, specifically flashbacks, which is a nice touch since Sam is an avid comic book reader. This comic book format is also implemented in a final off-camera action sequence. We don't believe this is just an artistic choice but one used because of budgetary restrictions since the action-heavy finale would have been expensive to shoot, but was cheap to draw. Finally, Madison Horcher does a great job in the role of Sam. She plays a smart, sometimes bratty young kid coping with loss very well, and we think we will see great things from her the longer she acts.
Unfortunately, Mail Order Monster (2018) isn't a terrific movie. It doesn't even come close to the other genre films we have so very much enjoyed in the past. We wanted to like this flick, but we were left pretty disappointed by it.
Final Score: 4 out of 10
Mail Order Monster • Run time 1:29 • Not Rated