Directed by Simon Wells, Written by Simon Wells, Wendy Wells, and Berkeley Breathed (book), 88 minutes, Rated PG.
By our guest blogger, Matt Schimkowitz
Robert Zemeckis won’t be bound to this planet when it comes to exploring the creepy depths of motion capture technology, and with “Mars Needs Moms,” he shows that the style can ruin the cosmos just as quickly as Christmas. Much like “The Polar Express” and “A Christmas Carol” before it, the Zemeckis-produced “Mars” fails to deliver emotional and comedic blows thanks to the dead-eyed mannequins standing in for characters.
The plot is insane: Milo (voiced by Seth Dursky and motion-captured by Seth Green) doesn’t want to eat his broccoli, take out the trash, or live with his supposedly tyrannical mother (Joan Cusack). However, all that changes when Martians abduct Milo’s mother and take her back to their home planet to mine her brain for parenting skills.
Milo stows away on the spaceship and heads to the red planet to save her but not without his fair share of misadventures. On Mars, he meets Gribble (played by the endlessly hyperactive and irritating Dan Fogler), an overweight man-child marooned on the rock since the mid-'80s. With the help of Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), a cheerful Martian obsessed with stereotypical hippie culture, Milo and Gribble hatch a plan to save Milo’s mom before it’s too late.
Directed by Simon West, the film is terribly misguided, thanks mostly to Zemeckis’ motion capture. Each character is stiff as a board on the gravity-less plane, with their movements ranging from the awkwardly slow to inhumanly strange. Milo and Gribble’s freakish appearances take away from the gorgeous scenery of Mars’ landscape and look even more alien than their Martian co-stars.
West’s attempts to amuse and teach his audience vanish in a script muddled by bad jokes and confusing lessons. Each quip about "who let the dogs out" and how listening to your mother will get her abducted by malevolent space mutants should horrify parents and children just as much as the creepy character models. The film’s antifeminist leanings about what mother’s do and what family’s are should freak out the rest. It all waters down the more emotional moments, which, in turn, slows down the film. It's a domino effect ending in one bad movie.
Nothing in "Mars Needs Moms" really gives the sense of adventure one would hope. The weird motion-capture movements and dull vocal performances are too slow to keep the film moving. "Mars Needs Moms" is only consistent in that it's a mess. Somebody should have told the filmmakers to clean it up.