Review: Mars Needs Moms

Friday, March 11 by

My Hollywood travels took me to a screening of Mars Needs Moms so I might as well review it. This will not be one of the animated movies you enjoy in spite of being grown up.

Milo (Seth Green) is a bratty kid who wishes his mom (Joan Cusack) would go away. When Martians abduct her, he hitches a ride and realizes he wants to save her after all. Kids may enjoy Milo’s adventure through Martian headquarters, but it’s nothing more than a light show.

This kid really is an obnoxious brat. Milo refuses to eat broccoli, which really? Are we still on “kids hate broccoli?” Maybe I can’t understand because I always liked broccoli, but I thought kids were all vegan now anyway. Milo’s an obnoxious smartass. This isn’t Home Alone where the kid is really better off without his abusive family until some Hollywood propaganda dictates he misses them.

The Robert Zemeckis Image Movers motion capture animation is worse than ever here. The facial reactions look like robots from the flesh fair in A.I. When Mom realizes she’s on Mars and freaks out, it doesn’t look like a face. It doesn’t look like a human face or an animated face. The computer approximation of Joan Cusack’s face looks like nothing. I don’t get how anyone can look at that and think, “We’re onto something. Next time we’ll tweak the cheeks a little more.”

A rebel Martian, Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), moves her arms around way too much, like Jar Jar Binks. Her translator gets English grammar wrong, just like the dogs in Up. At least Ki provides a romance for Gribble (Dan Fogler), the other earthling stranded on Mars since the Regan era. He references Top Gun for the kids.

The 3D really irritated me from the beginning. To be fair, I think it’s the theater. I saw this at Universal Citywalk’s Imax theater, which has really old style glasses and I’ve had problems there before, even with Toy Story 3 which is top of the line. But strobing lights and lasers are pretty mean to your eyes, and fuzzy satellite screens, ugh. I actually took the glasses off because blurry 2D gave me less of a headache.

There’s a healthy amount of trauma with flashbacks to dead moms. Not the elegant kind of trauma like Bambi’s mom or Mufasa, just blatant tear whoring. But it ain’t Disney without a dead parent.

The only thing I liked was that they show motion capture sessions in the credits, so the kids can see what it looks like in a white room with jumpsuits. Then you can compare it to how bad the finished product looks and learn a valuable lesson about filmmaking — what not to do.

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