Robert Zemeckis seems to be the last person around who hasn’t realized that
movie-goers just don’t like his revolutionary computerized
performance-capture animation technique. As much as he’s tried to shove the
awkward, shuffling movements, the unrealistic faces and bodies and the dead
soulless eyes of his characters down our throats in his last three movies –
The Polar Express, Beowulf and The Christmas Carol, the
audiences have been resistant to his “new animation style.”
he is even farming out the process. While Mars Needs Moms is
produced by Zemeckis and it uses his filmmaking technique, he actually
leaves the physical writing and directing work on this sci-fi family film to
Simon Wells. This should – at least in theory – seem like a wise person to
hand the mantle to a film about Mars – after all, his great grandfather was
great sci-fi novelist H.G. Wells. Unfortunately, as we learned nine years
ago on Simon Wells’ last film directing assignment
– a version of his
great-grandpa’s The Time Machine – apparently the storytelling gene
did not get passed down the bloodline.
Based on a 2007 kids’ book by cartoonist Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County),
Mars Needs Moms ends up kind of shocking in its horribleness. After
all, there are some very talented people behind the book and film production
and it’s actually not a bad concept in theory – so how did this movie turn
out to be as complete a car wreck as it has become?
sometimes impressively beautiful car wreck – but a complete and utter car
one thing I will wholeheartedly give Zemeckis about his technique is that it
does create some truly spectacular backgrounds. If he would just learn how
to green-screen human characters into these worlds, the work would be truly
stunning. Unfortunately, they insist on using the animations on actors and
muck everything up. It’s not a good sign that the human characters here
seem much creepier and less lifelike than their
Mars Needs Moms
actually has an
exceedingly odd anti-feminist vibe – particularly coming from a movie which
is supposed to be championing the importance of women in their children’s
Green does the voice of Milo, a nine-year-old kid who is just a bit bratty
and apparently has no relationships or interests in his life other than his
parents, particularly his nagging but truly loving mom (played by Joan
Cusack, typecast into her stock mom mode.) When Milo gets tired of his mom
asking him to take out the trash he tells her he wishes that he could live
without a mom.
Always a big mistake in kids’ films.
Turns out that his family was being watched from Mars and his mom seemed to
them like the ideal mother. Apparently, over the generations, all male
Martians have been delegated to the trash dumps of their planet. The cities
are run by the women; unfortunately they have lost all nurturing ability.
So when babies are born – they are literally hatched from the ground every
25 years – the Martian women build “Nanny-bots” to take care of the little
girls. (The little boys are sent to the dump with the older men.)
order to create the nanny-bots, the Martians go down to Earth and kidnap a
fit mom and drain her brain to teach the nanny-bots mothering skills and
the meantime, it appears that the male Martians, even while living in trash
and being described by one character as “dumber than a box of hammers,” have
learned to become happy and doting fathers.
I said, this film has some odd gender politics it is playing out.
Milo hitches a ride on the spaceship to save his mom, he lands on Mars and
somehow finds safety in another boy – now grown up – who came from Earth
when his mom was kidnapped twenty-five years earlier and still speaks in a
weird Reagan-era lingo. Together with a rebellious Martian woman who has
learned all she knows about Earth from a stolen transmission of some bad 60s
sitcom and a cutesy robot, they set out to save Milo’s mom and get back to
the plus side, the actual Mars scenery is often quite stunning. But the
storyline is odd and not just a bit sexist and the actual characters are
simply odd looking.
fairness, these little weird quirks will not bother small children nearly as
much as adults. I saw Mars Meets Moms with my eight-year-old nephew
and five-year-old niece and both enjoyed it. I, on the other hand, couldn’t
wait for the damned thing to end.
may need moms, but what the Earth needs is better family-oriented films than
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: March 11, 2011.