by Hugh Fisher
I wouldn’t be so dull as to say “Mars Needs Moms” is out of this world, but the new computer-animated film is visually stunning and loads of fun, with a lot of heart.
Milo, the main character (performed by Seth Green, voiced by Seth Robert Dusky) is a typical 9-year-old – he talks back, doesn’t eat his veggies, won’t do his chores.
But just as he feels sorry for how he’s treated his mom (Joan Cusack), she’s gone. Into an alien spaceship, headed for Mars.
We can’t see the Martians from Earth, by the way, because their vast cities are underground. (Carefully-placed matte paintings keep NASA fooled.)
Why does Mars need moms? Because they’ve got a gender crisis on the Red Planet like you wouldn’t believe.
Martian males are hairy, fun-loving, free-wheelin’ dudes. The organized, orderly Martian females have banished them to the caves underneath their cities.
The women live in cleanliness and order, surrounded by technology and The Supervisor – sort of a cross between E.T. and Gloria Steinem with a Big Brother wish. They’re too busy to care for the messy, noisy Martian babies when they hatch. That job goes to “nanny bots,” and in order to get those bots programmed, Mars needs … well, you know.
To quote Elton John, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.” Indeed.
On his quest to bring his mom home, Milo teams up with Gribble (Dan Fogler), a chubby 30-something who made his way to Mars long ago and never really grew up. Gribble can hack computers and typically spends time making the Martians’ lives more difficult.
He’s also immature.
He’s also Milo’s only hope.
The result is a really interesting and fast-paced movie. Although this is a Walt Disney production, it’s not a “Disney movie” in the sense you might expect.
“Mars Needs Moms” was made using computer motion capture technology, so it’s got a different look and feel than recent Pixar productions. The landscape is colorful and expansive.
And, while I typically think 3-D is an unnecessary add-on, this film’s computerized visuals take full advantage of the effect. Be prepared for a few vertigo-inducing moments where Milo is walking on a swinging bridge. It’s enough to make your spine tingle.
Fair warning: There are some scenes that might be scary for very young children. There’s also a scene or two that will probably bring a tear to grown-ups’ eyes as well, for different reasons altogether.
And, as you might expect in the age when children of the ’80s have kids of their own, there are plenty of nostalgic references. Case in point: Gribble looks forward to getting back to Earth to watch “He-Man” and eat some Smurfberry Crunch cereal.
There’s another detail that sharp-eyed viewers will notice. In several scenes, Milo’s mom wears what looks suspiciously like a Steve Smith football jersey. The number is different and there’s no Carolina Panthers logo, but the similarity is very noticeable. Go figure.
It’s not often that I’ll pay to see a movie twice, but this one might be an exception to the rule. “Mars Needs Moms” is a rocket ride worth taking, especially for moms, kids, or anyone who’s ever had a mom of their own.
Grade: 3.5/4 Stars