Rated PG for sci-fi action and peril, 88 minutes
Loopy fun in familiar "Mars Needs Moms"
The new Disney animated/motion capture movie "Mars Needs Moms" mixes a perfect amount of silly fun with simple sci-fi fun and a few heartwarming messages thrown in for good measure. The story emotes a "been there done that" type of feel, combining a lot of different sci-fi elements from different films ranging from "Aliens" to "Star Wars" to "2001: A Space Odyssey" but there's enough wistful energy to keep the young ones entertained for roughly 90 minutes.
Nine-year old Milo (voice of Seth Dusky/body of Seth Green) is a normal precocious boy on Earth who doesn't appreciate his Mom (Joan Cusack) much until she is kidnapped by Martians with plans to strip her of her "mom-ness" for their own young. Milo's quest to save his mom involves stowing away on a spaceship, navigating an elaborate, multi-level planet and taking on the alien nation and their leader, the Supervisior (Mindy Sterling). With the help of a tech-savvy, underground earthman named Gribble (Dan Fogler) and his bionic underground pet named Two-Cat (Dee Bradley Baker) and a rebellious Martian girl called Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), Milo just might find his way back to his mom — in more ways than one.
"Mars Needs Moms" is a colorful, loopy and entertaining adventure perfect for kids of all ages, especially ones who must appreciate their Mom's more. Produced by Robert Zemeckis and directed by Simon Wells ("The Prince of Egypt"), the film utilizes the same stop motion capture used on some of Zemeckis' earlier films including "A Christmas Carol" and "The Polar Express" and the film continues to show how this technology evolves to produce smoother, more fluid human movements that look remarkably like animation. Unlike those earlier films, "Mars Needs Moms" has a lighter tone to appeal to a younger, wider audience, which could work in the film's favor.
The story is predictable but energetic, light fun and you have a sense of where the story is going, but it's still fun to get there. Zemeckis and company add some nice sci-fi touches (women in charge, the men are doofuses), and while the film seems overly familiar, it's actually based on a Berkeley Breathed (of "Bloom County" fame) children's picture book of the same name. The film is well-acted and voiced, even with the limited taste of an annoying comedian like Fogler, who gives the film's most touching performance as someone who's had similar experiences to Milo.
The film's target audience, the younger set, should enjoy this outing more than the slightly creepy "Polar Express" or the dark "Christmas Carol," both of which have found taken time to find audiences. Kids should have no problem enjoying the warm, heartfelt "Mars Needs Moms," which could be a treat for the whole family, especially Moms.
Wes's Grade: B