March 12, 2011
Review - " Mars Needs Moms " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Milo (voiced by Seth Green) hates taking out the trash and won't eat his broccoli. And when Mom (Joan Cusack) lays down
the law -- "No broccoli, no TV" -- he revolts: "My life would be so much better if I didn't have a mom at all."
Milo, who looks to be about 11, learns a big life lesson with that. Words can wound. He makes his mom cry.
Imagine his guilt when, a few hours later, she's
abducted by aliens. He scrambles after her and
learns an awful secret - "Mars Needs Moms." And
not just any moms, GOOD moms. Ones who lay
down the law, teach their children respect,
discipline, manners and values, maybe teach
their kids not to kick the seat in front of them at
the movie theater.
Martians spy on us, pick out a mom doing a good
job, and grab her so that they can use her brain
to encode their nanny robots, which they use to
raise baby Martians miles below the surface of
the planet, far from the probing eye of the Mars
Milo is at a loss about how to rescue Mom until he
himself is saved by Gribble, a portly subterranean
nerd played by Dan Fogler. Gribble stowed away
to Mars just like Milo and has survived, built
robots and filled his own junkyard lair with hi-tech
gear. He is surrounded by hordes of goofy,
dreadlocked outcasts from Mars society whom he can understand (he's built a translator) but can't communicate with.
Gribble is trapped in the 1980s, which is when he arrived. He's fighting "the spread of interplanetary communism" for Ronald
Reagan ("Why do you think they call it the Red Planet?") With help from a thirtysomething Earth refugee, Gribble (Dan
Fogler), and the cute Martian Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), Milo mans up while teaching the Martians to loosen up. Milo has mere
hours to convince Gribble to help rescue his mother before her brain is cooked, and to find and meet a Martian graffiti artist
(Elisabeth Harnois) in revolt against the regimented, colorless matriarchy of Mars.
shootouts and such. He and his animators also deliver a couple of those big emotional moments that gave "Up" and "Toy
Story 3" their pathos. But laughs? He doesn't do well with the ones the script sets up.
There's subtext here, too. Plainly, Breathed the author has some mommy issues he was working out - women running a
planet are too busy to nurture their own babies.
It all makes for an intricate - if slow and somewhat humor-starved - early Mother's Day present in which a boy learns just how
much his mom means to him on the Red Planet.
"Mars Needs Moms," but Milo needs Mom even more. My final verdict: The story was decent, even touching but the animation
was sadly lacking.
Mars Needs Moms
Directed by: Simon Wells
Starring: Seth Green, Seth Dusky, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois,
Dan Folger and Mindy Sterling.
You'll want to stay through the closing credits of the new
motion-capture animated adventure "Mars Needs Moms," a film from
the people who gave us "The Polar Express."
There are four minutes of clips of the real-live cast of the film -- Seth
Green, Joan Cusack and Dan Fogler among them -- wearing the
mo-cap suits, with dots covering their faces so the sensors can digitally
mimic their movements, actions and facial reactions as they act out
what's going to be animated.
It's fascinating, and also the lightest and funniest part of this film,
based on a novel by "Bloom County" creator Berkeley Breathed.
Though light enough in tone, packed with good messages and
delivering a couple of lovely, touching moments, "Mars" still has that
plastic look that made you wish you were seeing the REAL Tom Hanks
in "Polar Express" or the REAL Jim Carrey in "A Christmas Carol."
Cute characters and a "Star Wars"-derived plot -- rescuing a damsel
from a heavily garrisoned "citadel" - drive this tale, a movie more
interested in action beats than in big laughs. It's not bad, and is
considerably more kid-friendly than the trippy and more adult-oriented
"Rango." It's just not as much fun as a live-action version of the same
story might have been.
The pleasures of "Mars Needs Moms" aren't
immediately evident — the movie has a dark
look, and, be aware, gets a little heavy towards
the end — but it's based on a children's book
by Berkeley Breathed, creator of the classic
comic "Bloom County," so there's a shaggy,
countercultural vibe; if you get in the groove,
it's a hoot.
For instance, female Martians banish the
males to work in a garbage pit because they're
"hairy tribal guys" intent on dancing, and Ki,
weaned on a 1970s sitcom, is a wannabe
flower child whose hippy-dippy style throws off
stuck-in-the-'80s Gribble and child-of-the-
Director Simon Wells worked on "Prince of
Egypt" and "The Time Machine" and is right at
home with the endless digital chases,