Walt Disney Pictures has been busy at work over the past 70 years producing animated and feature films that enthrall and envelop us in magic foreign lands and introduce us to many new characters and faces. This year alone, we are going to be seeing big releases such as “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Cars 2,” “National Treasure 3” and, in the middle of this flurry of successful and established franchises, we have a new film in the mix: “Mars Needs Moms.”
Based off a 2007 book by Berkeley Breathed, the movie has been turned into a full-length feature film by director Simon Wells (“The Time Machine,” “The Prince of Egypt”). But does it hold up to the standard that Disney has set with recent hits such as “Toy Story 3” and “Tangled?”
Milo (Seth Green) is the average nine-year-old boy — he doesn’t like to eat his vegetables or do his chores. Overall, he is a good kid, but like so many other children, sometimes he wishes he didn’t have parent or rules. When his mom (Joan Cusack) is abducted in the middle of the night by strangers, he follows them to their spaceship and in the process gets stuck inside it as it takes off. He then realizes that they have taken him to Mars.
After being befriended by a strange and goofy human named Gribble (Dan Fogler), Milo is off to try to find his mom and discover the reason she was taken in the first place. On his journey, he meets a rebellious Martian named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), who is unlike all of the other aliens he has encountered and she is willing to help him on his quest. With an entire planet against them, they must avoid the leader of the Martians (Mindy Sterling), a ruthless commander who will do whatever it takes to see her plans reach fruition. Will Milo be able to find his mom before it’s too late?
“Mars Needs Moms” is a visual delight. The majority of the movie take place in a cold and mostly metallic landscape, but features many scenes of color and beauty. It includes some of the most realistic-looking work I have seen done in an animated film. The humans in the story look very realistic, just with a slightly exaggerated eye size that makes them feel more cartoonish. The 3D visuals were fun and most kids like any excuse to put on the glasses, but I feel I would have enjoyed the movie just as much without seeing it in 3D. There were a few scenes that really lend themselves to the 3D element, but you won’t miss out on that much if you choose to see it in 2D.
The voice acting was stellar and for the majority of the movie, I had fun realizing who each character was played by. A lot of the main characters in the film have accents or speak in a Martian language, so it was fun to find out in the end who a few of them were.
The story was decent. It was average in spots, while pulling at emotional heartstrings at other times. And while there were quite a few tear-jerking moments I really enjoyed, I felt like I didn’t connect as much to the characters and story as I would have liked. Children will enjoy and be hypnotized by the film, while adults might find themselves looking at their watches a few times. It’s hard to pinpoint where “Mars Needs Moms” failed to be as good as other past films, but it just didn’t “wow” me like I was hoping for.
While this is a movie I’m sure your kids will want to see over and over again, you might be best served waiting to have them see it when it’s released on DVD, so they can replay it over and over again at home. Not only will it save you on the ticket price, but it also may save a bit of your sanity as well. Regardless, whether you see it at home in the theater, make sure you stick around during the credits; they show a montage of them filming the scenes with the actors in the motion-capture suits and it is always fun to see behind the scenes.
“Mars Needs Moms” opens in both 2D and 3D March 11 and is rated PG for sci-fi elements and peril. The film also stars the voices of Tom Everett Scott, James Earl Jones, Breckin Mayer and Kevin Cahoon.
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