Mars Needs Moms

Movie Information

The Story: When his mother is kidnapped by Martians, young Milo has to rescue her. The Lowdown: A one-note premise is interminably dragged out in this unappealing-looking motion-capture kiddie fodder.
Genre: Animated Kiddie Flick
Director: Simon Wells (The Time Machine)
Starring: Seth Green, Dan Fogler, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois, Mindy Sterling
Rated: PG

Probably the most interesting thing about Mars Needs Moms is that it supposedly stars Seth Green, but what that means is another matter. You see, because the film was made in that ghastly motion-capture animation process, Green was able to act the role of Milo before being digitally turned into cartoon Milo, but because he wasn’t able to sound like a 9-year-old, Milo’s voice was dubbed by a real kid (Seth Dursky). This perhaps redefines what starring in a movie means. Then again, I’m not convinced of the actual box office value of Green’s name—something that may be answered by the film crashing and burning on opening weekend.

What really is there to say about the movie otherwise? The plot is thinner than single-ply toilet paper. Milo (Green/Dursky) ill-advisedly hurts Mom’s (Joan Cusack) feelings by saying his life would be better without her—only to find her being kidnapped by Martians to act as the source for “nanny-bots” to raise their hatchlings. Naturally, he has to rescue her. That’s about it, though it’s painfully padded out with other characters like Gribble (Dan Fogler), an earlier Mom-rescuing attemptee who ended up stranded on Mars, and whose frame of reference extends no further than Top Gun (1986) and Reagan. There’s also a revolutionary named Ki (TV actress Elisabeth Harnois), who learned all she knows from some ersatz 1960s sitcom with hippies. This is the level of invention.

I will note that a couple of 5-year-olds in the audience found it hysterically funny. Not being 5 years old, I merely found it perfunctory, mediocre and very, very tedious. I got more laughs out of Red Riding Hood. But then I remain completely perplexed by this fixation—mostly, it seems, by producer Robert Zemeckis—with the whole motion-capture process. It has yet to result in characters who look even remotely like living human beings. The faces are rubbery and the eyes are glazed-over and dead looking. The effect is somewhere between an embalmed corpse and a zombie. The potential charm of a skillfully animated character is completely lost in the bargain. Unfortunately, for a movie that wants to assault your tear ducts with its message of appreciating your mom, so is all sense of humanity. Rated PG for sci-fi action and peril.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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5 thoughts on “Mars Needs Moms

  1. Ken Hanke

    Yes, I’d heard that. I don’t normally object to remakes, but…well, this made my day brighter.

  2. I never could understand why this style was popular at all. POLAR EXPRESS is extremely creepy.

    The problem is, after all of these animated films, do we really want Zemeckis to return to live action?

  3. Ken Hanke

    I never could understand why this style was popular at all. POLAR EXPRESS is extremely creepy.

    You’re coming to the wrong guy for an argument. When that came out in 2004, I wrote, “From the moment I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought that the characters and animation looked downright creepy. Upon finally seeing the film, my first response was that I had just seen the world’s first Christmas horror movie.”

    The problem is, after all of these animated films, do we really want Zemeckis to return to live action?

    It’s not like he was all that hot before them. (Cue the Back to the Future brigade to light their torches and head my way.)

  4. Will Lugar

    This thing’s premise seems amazingly similar to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The original did not live up to its title, and they missed a huge opportunity by not remaking it…

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