Being dragged to the movies can sometimes become difficult, oftentimes I don’t mind but sometimes when there’s nothing else I really want to see, I just go with the flow. Truthfully it was someone’s birthday which is why I ended up seeing “Mars Needs Moms” (I guess this was the better choice than “Red Riding Hood”) along with my friends. The film is a joint effort from Disney and ImageMovers Digital, the motion capture team (led by Robert Zemeckis) responsible for such CGI-films such as “The Polar Express” and “A Christmas Carol”. Director Simon Wells (Prince of Egypt) adapts the 2007 book by Berkeley Breathed and what becomes is a creation of CGI wonderment and high-other worldly adventure.
Milo is a young boy (voiced by Seth Green) tired of doing chores, eating vegetables and other things “suggested” by his mother. Not knowing any better, Milo begins to develop a resentment towards his mother (Joan Cusack). One night, martians come a-calling and they are bent on kidnapping human mothers so they could get aid in raising their newborns. Milo ends up being whisked away along with his mother to their ship and upon arrival, he stumbles upon an underground area where male martians are dumped along with the trash. Now aided by an earthling (who was caught on the same predicament years ago) named Gribble (voiced by Dan Fogler), and a free-spirited, English-speaking martian female called Ki (Elisabeth Harnois) Milo plans a rescue before his mother’s knowledge in parenting is erased and stolen by the conniving evil femizone-martians led by the supervisor (Mindy Sterling).
“Mars Needs Moms” is a formula film; it is simple, easy to grasp and definitely good for its intended audience--kids. There is nothing really special with the film’s plot and premise; the story is fast-paced, filled with fantasy elements that take our characters on a journey. Along the way, they manage to exude an adventure that is filled with swooping editing tricks and camera shots, amazing animation and computer-generated set designs (towering vistas, bleak environments, alien lifestyle) that prove to be one of the best ones I’ve seen in CGI movies. I was delighted with the film’s visual designs.
The direction by Simon Wells along with co-writer Wendy Wells manages to exploit the limits of the CGI-environment. The animated motion capture moves fluidly (albeit some movements can be a tad stiff), as it gives careful detail to the character mannerisms and actions, all the while giving them a sense of personality. Most noted are the alien designs; I found it curious that the female martians were rendered with big hips, gaps and their bodies seem to resemble the bottom of an hourglass while their legs are complete with hooves. The male martians are hairier than the norm, and for some reason, being kept underground, they seemed to have adapted a hairy exterior with limited intellect. The set designs are just gorgeous and made to showcase shadows and bright colors (as done with the designs of Ki). Each hallway and area is given depth and the film was indeed built with IMAX 3D in mind. Each texture had the right detail and even the skin tone was animated (see Gribble’s blushing face).
As for the story, I’ve already mentioned that it was simple and meant for the consumption of kids; so don’t expect any intricacies to its plot. The film relies on formula and delivers some needed lessons. Appreciate what you have and always seize the moment with your parents, there is also the thought of loss. There are also dark themes shown in Martian society but it was a little underdeveloped. The parental kidnapping scheme of things had a lot of potential, but no doubt the filmmakers held back so that they wouldn’t lose their intended viewers.
The cast performs admirably as they go about their energetic, playful pace as they frolic around the planet mars. The film is entertaining in its own way, but Fogler does threaten to hamper the film’s pace. His comedic antics felt a little too forced and honestly, they felt a little out of sync at times. Gribble had the potential to be a main ingredient in the film, but his antics overstayed their welcome. I know he was probably supposed to be annoying, but I thought he hampered the film’s pacing as i found myself hoping that his scene would end quickly. Perhaps it was the script and not the voice-acting, but something felt out of place.
“Mars Needs Moms” isn’t a terrific film, but it's fairly decent and it is pure family fun. Its efforts were commendable but sometimes, I feel that I’ve been on this road so many times before and I thought I was watching a rehash of past animated movies. The scene of parental appreciation and how mothers are awesome were perfectly done though; it was the perfect reminder to kids that parents are there to protect them and to teach them the right values. The film is definitely a little rough around the edges, it nonetheless pulls off a decent inter-galactic adventure that I was able to ignore the weak parts of its production. It has a great message for the entire family and sometimes we need to be reminded.
This would be the perfect film to play on Mother's Day!
Timid Recommendation, RENTAL is Advisable [3+ Out of 5 Stars]
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