The new CG 3D animated film Mars Needs Moms is based on a children’s book by Berkeley Breathed, who some of you may know as the creator of the beloved Bloom County comic strip (to read an article by Breathed about the origins of Mars Needs Moms and what it’s like to see his “story baby” turned into a mega-budget Disney movie, go here). Unfortunately, one of the producers of Mars Needs Moms is Robert Zemeckis, whose previous work includes making a highly profitable mess out of the beloved children’s book The Polar Express, which used nascent performance capture technology and bloated an elegant story to feature length with noisy, pointless action.
Sadly, Mars Needs Moms suffers from the same flaws. But the film does make some interesting observations about parenting here on earth. Watch the trailer for Mars Needs Moms below.
In the film, an authoritarian matriarchal Martian society is desperate to find earthling moms with good parenting skills that can be programmed into the army of nannybots that raises the Martians’ young. Milo, a 9-year-old performed by Seth Green (but voiced by child actor Seth Dursky), has such a mom, though he bristles under her authority, even telling her in a moment of anger that he wished he never had a mom. But when Milo’s wish is granted and his mom is kidnapped by Martians, Milo travels to Mars to bring her back.
Unfortunately, this means teaming up with an irritating human named Gribble, performed by Dan Fogler, who grew up in Mars’ trash dump, and a sympathetic Martian named Ki, performed by Elisabeth Arnois, who has been inspired by a 60s-era TV show to speak in hippie slang and promote flower power, which is about as annoying as you’d imagine. The jabbering, dreadlocked, dopey male Martians who live in the dump are similarly grating. The subterranean Martian world looks nice but seems to be created largely from leftover environments from Wall-E, Tron: Legacy and Avatar.
Zemeckis has been a proponent of performance capture — where actors’ every movement and expression is recorded, then mapped onto digital characters — since The Polar Express in 2004, and has used it to try to create photorealistic CG humans in Beowulf (2007) and A Christmas Carol (2009).
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