Mars Needs Moms (Blu-ray)
Based on the award-winning children’s novel by Berkeley Breathed, MARS NEEDS MOMS is the tale of young Milo (Seth Green) and his whirlwind journey to outer space. Within minutes of the movie’s opening credits, Milo is irritated that his Mom (Joan Cusack) is always on him to take out the trash or eat his plate of vegetables and openly declares that he doesn’t need her in his life. That night, a group of Martians snatch her while she’s sleeping and Milo barely has time to hop on the spaceship before it takes off for the red planet.
While searching for his Mom, Milo finds allies in two unlikely characters. Gribble (Fogler) is a resourceful man child who has a knack for advanced technology and 80s lingo. Ki is a renegade Martian who uses colorful graffiti to brighten up the rather sterile surroundings of her city. The trio relentlessly works together against their deadline of the rising sun to locate and rescue Milo’s Mom. At dawn, her “discipline methods” will be extracted and given to Nannybots that are designed to raise the females. Males are dropped down the garbage shoot and left to fend for themselves while growing dread locks and hairy arms.
The film was okay. I was mildly surprised by the gender reversal of women stoically running the planet while men are sent away because they hug and love their kids too much. However, there were a few distractions that kept me from really embracing the message.
The first distraction was how the director Simon Wells used a motion-capture effort in his animation technique. I found that like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol before it, the characters have a weird waxy look about them. Yes, the technology that makes it possible to see Joan Cusack’s face in animation is extraordinary. However, I think the end result is a bit creepy. It’s like a bad version of Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum. The human characters look unrealistic. This is especially disconcerting when Disney has produced so many realistic successes from Pixar.
Another diversion was the dramatic peak when Milo finally rescues his Mom and they are racing to the spaceship to return to Earth. Milo trips and breaks his breathing helmet. He begins choking for air and we see delicate hands enter the picture and replace his breathing helmet. His Mom has saved his life and is now struggling to breathe and slowly losing consciousness.
Wow. I get that Disney always has a parent dying in their movies (see Bambi’s mother, Simba’s father, Nemo’s mother and Tarzan’s parents to name a few) and let the record show that Milo’s Mom ended up not dying, but seriously? This was extremely graphic and I would have been fast forwarding through the drama if I had been watching with any kid under the age of 12.
With that said, I did find the generational throw backs pretty interesting. During the entire movie, I felt a slight homage to the STAR WARS trilogy. I thought Gribble’s constant 80s references were amusing and Ki’s enthusiasm for all things flower power from the 70s was actually charming. She was definitely the most entertaining. I should remind you that she was a Martian and therefore didn’t succumb to the weird creepy wax face syndrome that personally bugged me.
MARS NEEDS MOMS is fast paced with a few entertaining moments. My recommendation is to take it or leave it. If it’s free on an airplane or on the Disney Channel one day, it’s safe to let the older kids watch. Otherwise, I wouldn’t seek it out to add to your DVD repertoire.
Video (1080 High Definition): Apart from the creepiness of the human characters, the work the animators did on the underground trash world was amazing. Ki’s graffiti against a rather grey, black, silver, white pallet really made me appreciate the colors of her art.
Audio (DTS-HD MA): The sound quality was really good. The humans wore a special helmet that translated Martian. The effect was interesting.
Fun With Seth: MARS NEEDS MOMS showcased how motion activated animation works. Tiny little speckled dots are placed all over the actors who are in special Velcro suits that have tiny cameras all over them. It was truly interesting to see all the work that goes into something that had such disappointing outcome.
Martian 101: The director walks the viewing audience through the process of creating an actual Martian language. Those playing Martians felt like it was a real secondary language and could bounce back and forth among a list of emotional ideas and commands. They had a huge wall chart of examples that explained sounds and Martian terminology. It was creative at best and weird at worst.
Deleted Scenes: The deleted scenes were a bit distracting. Most of them landed on the cutting room floor before they were fully animated. The scenes from above were sketch drawings or block animation. Not much can be deciphered from the cuts.