Mars Needs Moms
dir Simon Wells
scr Simon Wells, Wendy Wells
prd Robert Zemeckis, Steven J Boyd, Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey
with Seth Green, Dan Fogler, Elisabeth Harnois, Joan Cusack, Mindy Sterling, Kevin Cahoon, Tom Everett Scott, Adam Jennings, Jacquie Barnbrook, Matthew Wolf, Julene Renee, Matthew Henerson
release US 11.Mar.11, UK 8.Apr.11
11/US Disney 1h28
Mars Needs Moms
To the rescue: Gribble and Milo

green fogler cusack
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Mars Needs Moms Like Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol, this animated adventure features an uneven mix of not-quite-right realism and fantastical imagery. It's enjoyable enough, but a live-action movie with a better script would have been much more engaging.

Surly 9-year-old Milo (performed by Green with Seth Dursky's voice) is annoyed by the way his mother (Cusack) runs an efficient house. But this is precisely what the Martian Supervisor (Sterling) needs to help her raise her regimented planet's female population (the useless males are sent to an underground rubbish tip). After Milo accidentally hitches a ride to Mars, he's found by a human, Gribble (Fogler), who's hiding underground. And they meet a friendly Martian (Harnois) who wants to help them find and rescue Mom.

The premise has potential, but the bright, funny tone is underscored by some inherent sexism that's never properly dealt with. So the film is insulting to both men and women, as well as the aged. This won't bother children, who will also miss the vaguely suggestive humour and creepy Nazi vibe. To them, the Supervisor will just be a cranky old granny who would rather shoot someone than talk reasonably. The whole kidnapping earth-kids' mums thing might worry children a bit more.

At least the animation often looks spectacular, as the gorgeous Martian settings are rendered with a remarkable attention to detail. The voice work is especially strong, with the lively sense of interaction coming from the fact that the cast actually performed the scenes on a soundstage. And the character design is very clever, even if the skin looks like plastic. Milo and Gribble do have more texture in close-up, and the Supervisor looks like worn burlap, but Cusack and Scott (briefly as Milo's dad) look like mannequins.

So the real question is why Zemeckis persists in making movies like this. He seems to at least have overcome the dead-eyes problem that makes The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol deeply creepy. But clearly this film would have worked better if the humans were actually human. That said, you might not mind as much if the script felt like it was fully thought through.

cert pg themes, vulgarity, some violence 13.Mar.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall