Last Saturday morning I went to the early screening of “Mars Needs Moms”, the newest picture to come out of the oh-so famous Disney banner. Let me tell you: this film didn’t work on any level. Little kids, brought by their parents who attended this early screening (they won sweepstakes on the radio) were bored to tears, simultaneously walking and crawling around on the floor, as if the disgusting and unsanitary ground was better than the picture. By the end of Mars Needs Moms, I almost wish I partook in the children’s epiphany of the floor so I could dismiss this God awful, uninspiring animated effort.
Shot in the type of frame by frame live-action animated camerawork that makes the 3D in Clash of the Titans look like visual wizardry, Mars Needs Moms tells the simplistic and recycled tale of Milo. After having his mom being taken away by Martians, the boy is dumbstruck and soon realizes just how much he needs his mother. Produced by the team who made Polar Express (a film I really like), Mars Needs Moms predictably depicts his journey to save his mother from the evil Martians who wish to “take her brain and use it on their own, mommy robots” (yes my friends, actual quote from the movie).
Once Milo lands on Mars, he meets the tech-savvy, lost in translation individual named Gribble (Dan Fogler). The two collaborate and come up with a plan to save the mother before the Martians zap her brain. Luckily the two clunks receive more help when they meet a rebel Martian girl called Ki (Elisabeth Harnois). Now with the three teaming up to retrieve Milo’s mom, the film poses the question will they be able to track her down in time or will Milo be stuck on Mars forever without a mother? I have my own question: Who cares?
With the exception of Joan Cusack (the mother), who really doesn’t have nearly enough screen time to make a substantial difference, it’s difficult to care about these characters and the endless problems they endure. It’s odd because for the most part Disney has been very successful creating lovable and relatable animated characters that ring true to basic human nature. But not for a second does the script of Mars Needs Moms brings any emotional empathy, or for that matter a laugh. What’s so great about Disney is that they consistently pick up witty and tender writers that can write comedic scripts for kids, while adding a little bit of adult humor. There is none of that here, besides Fogler who only gets a few laughs because he ad-libbed some of the material. Seth Green does some dreadful voice work, bringing down his tone of voice to sound like a 9-year-old boy. More times than once, Green’s voice noticeably cracks into his own.
I usually try to look at a film like Mars Needs Moms from a family point of view. Thankfully, I was in full supply of adolescents and their parents, who steered me in the right direction for this review. Parents and kids alike won’t care or be amused by this picture. The laughs are far and few between, the script seems almost intentionally sporadic and ill-conceived. The 3D is an absolute joke. How come studios think it’s okay to present 3D for the first 15 minutes of the movie, then completely forget about it for the remaining hour?
I suspect I will be thanking Mars Needs Moms come late December, early January for making one decision very clear: being a front runner for the worst picture of the year. And for that, we thank you Disney studios and director Simon Wells. For every little kid out there, cherish your mother who makes endless sacrifices for you, and just be thankful that your not watching Mars Needs Moms.
Notes: Rated PG for sci-fi action and peril, 88 minutes.
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