Movie Review: Mars Needs Moms
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: March 11, 2011
Directed by: Simon Wells
Stars: 2 out of 5
It's a scenario moms have been threatening their children with for generations: What would you do if I weren't here to take care of you? The 2011 film "Mars Needs Moms" attempts to answer this very question. Using 3-D performance capture technology perfected by producer/director Robert Zemekis's animation studio, director Simon Wells tells the story of a nine-year-old boy willing to do anything to rescue his mom, who has been abducted by aliens.
The film opens with nine-year-old Milo (Seth Green) furious with the fact that his mother (Joan Cusack) wants him to continue to do chores even though school is out and summer vacation is just beginning. One particularly heated exchange regarding him finishing his broccoli before getting to watch TV leads to him being grounded. In a fit of anger, a fed-up Milo wishes that he didn't have a mother. Needless to say, that's exactly what happens when Martians kidnap his mother later that night. The Martians have decided that their own children will fare best if the very best Earth mothers raise them.
Feeling the loss almost instantly, Milo resolves to go on a mission to Mars to rescue his mother. He stows away aboard a spaceship but is caught by the Martians as soon as he lands. He manages to escape with the help of an Earthling named Gribble (Dan Fogler). Gribble and Milo come up with a plan to rescue his mother-a plan that needs to be executed within a certain time or else Earth loses its rights to her. The plan is foiled at a Martian checkpoint where Gribble is captured, but Milo manages to escape.
While plotting to rescue his friend and his mother, Milo meets a young Martian girl named Ki. Ki is enthralled with all things Earth. At this point, Milo is now on a two-pronged quest to rescue both his mother and Gribble. His growth through this period is touching, as he realizes that life without his mother would not be very much of a life at all. When they rescue Gribble, Milo learns that Gribble's reason for being on Mars are identical to his own. Years before, Martians had also kidnapped Gribble's mother, but sadly, Gribble had been unsuccessful in his attempts to rescue her before Earth's rights to her were up. Milo is now more determined than ever to beat the clock. The buildup to the end of the film is intense as Milo, Ki and Gribble face obstacle after obstacle in their quest to save Milos's mom before it's too late.
Writer-director Robert Zemekis produced the film and was personally invested in this film from the very beginning. A huge fan of motion-capture technology, he made the film using this technology with his animation company, ImageMovers Digital. The film cost $150 million to produce and two years to make. Zemekis' animated films tend to focus on younger audiences, and this film is no exception. Parents should go into the film knowing that it was not made for them.
The performance-capture technology used in the film is superb. The technology turns live-action footage into animation, resulting in characters with realistic body movements and facial expressions. That accuracy helps add to the realism of the film, allowing kids to identify even further with the character of Milo. The movie manages to accurately portray a very real fear of most kids: the possible loss of a mother. The film conveys this fear while simultaneously playing up the child hero's bravery. This allows tiny viewers to function as both the hero and the savior, powers that every child would embrace. It also manages to teach children about personal responsibility in a way that isn't preachy.
"Mars Needs Moms" is a great, family film for parents who want their children to enjoy an adventure film that mixes a lot of learning with a whole lot of fun. Parents, meanwhile, may want to bring along a book, just in case.