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Published on March 10th, 2011 | by Genevieve Mc Bride

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Mars Needs Moms

Milo is your typical 9-year-old boy who doesn’t like doing chores, eating his vegetables or getting disciplined by his mother. But because his mother makes him do his chores and eat his vegetables and scolds him when he doesn’t, she’s made herself the prime target for Martians who need her great mothering skills. Apparently, Martians are “hatched” and raised by “nanny-bots” that are programmed with an Earthling mother’s caregiving and disciplinary abilities. Of course, not any Earthling mother will do. Bypassed are those who spoil their child or fail to care for their child’s safety and wellbeing. So when Milo is spied dutifully, albeit grudgingly, doing as he’s told by his mother, she becomes Mars’ candidate for abduction, because, as the movie title states, Mars needs moms.

On the night Milo’s mom is abducted, Milo (enacted by Seth Green, voiced by Seth Dusky) wakes up in time to witness her being loaded onto a spaceship and he quickly becomes a stowaway. On the red planet, he’s rescued by Gribbler, a chubby, fast-talking, tech-savvy human (voiced by Dan Fogler) who helps him devise a plan to save Milo’s mom, a recognizable Joan Cusack, in voice and, somewhat creepily, in CGI’d face. The two are up against an army of female Martians lead by The Supervisor (voiced by Mindy Sterling) a mean, old Martian. Think Frau Farbissina as a mean E.T. Luckily, Milo and Gribbler find an ally in a rebel Martian named Ki (voiced by Elisabeth Harnois). Milo has less than 6 hours to get to his mom before she’s programmed into the nanny-bots and destroyed by the process. Soon, it’s a race against time for Milo, Gribbler and Ki as they run around endless corridors, hurtle through chutes, tumble down trash mountains, splash into other-worldly caves and fall off cliffs.

Based on a children’s novel by cartoonist Berkeley Breathed, the film is produced by Robert Zemeckis and directed by Simon Wells in performance-capture 3D, a technique pioneered by Zemeckis in Polar Express and used again in A Christmas Carol. In performance-capture filming, actors are covered in sensors that capture their actions and expressions to animate their digital characters. During the end credits, a sampling of outtakes show the actors in their sensor suits physically acting out various scenes. I have to admit, the most entertaining part of the movie for me was watching Seth Green and Dan Fogler literally throw themselves into their characters.

Even with a run time of 88 minutes, kids around Milo’s age and younger may remain enthralled to the end simply from the countdown suspense. Older kids, maybe not. Yes, the high-point of the tale is Milo’s realization of how truly important his mom is to him. But even with all the running and tumbling around, the story takes a long, meandering walk to get to that point. While the technological achievements of 3D animation get more and more impressive, if the story doesn’t captivate or inspire, it’s practically a wasted effort, especially when watching in 2D would not take much away from the effects.

2.5 out of 5 stars


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