Our fearless leader and site founder Michael Cantrell hit me up recently about cinematic reviews from a female perspective. Since estrogen is the one thing I have in ample supply (time, money, patience, notsomuch), I agreed. All I needed was a movie with which I could identify as a woman/chick/mom. Faced with 3 bored kids and a mid-day screening of “Mars Needs Moms,” I had my opportunity yesterday to make good on my promise to Mr. Cantrell.
I’m totally mid-cycle right now, so believe me when I tell you that I am not writing this from a catty place. However. “Mars Needs Moms” needed some help before going into wide release.
Here’s the gist:
Milo, a precocious kid who reminded me of my own precocious 7 year-old, Jack, is faced with rescuing his mom from Martians who have abducted her from earth in their efforts to recruit (and ultimately unnecessarily destroy. . .wha?) moms to fuel their ”Nanny-Bots.” These Nanny-Bots are powered by the memories and mental power of earthling mothers who excel at controlling and disciplining their own kids. The moms are strapped to a table and these (admittedly) amazing powers are physically extracted and supplied to the Nanny-Bots. who in turn raise Mars’ population of little baby martian offspring. Hence, the creative title of the film. Nevermind exploring the question of why the Martians can travel allll the way to earth, abduct these moms, transport them back to their own planet, and extract theit mothering skills, and yet they cannot simply get their own Martian kids to obey them. Well, okay. I guess that in itself is kind of funny. Being a mom does at times feel like alonely, inter-galactic mission. I digress.
I’m actually a pretty big motion capture (not to mention stop-motion ) animation fan, so the animation didn’t bother me the way it might some. I find it to be soothing and visually pleasing, in contrast with the jarring colors and animation techniques employed in, say, a “Rango” type movie.
For me, the movie ran into trouble in two places: the storyline, and the use of 3D.
Granted, catching this movie in 3D was my own decision, and one that was based mainy on convenience. I had a hunch that there wouldn’t be that many really eyepopping uses of the 3D format, and I was right. The kids did seem to like wearing the shades, and I managed to snap a very cool Elvis-Costello-Meets-Tom-Cruise shot of my son in the lobby. Guess that’s something.
As for the storyline, it attempts to oversimplify the mother-child relationship a bit. I felt that the mom – and the nannybot figures – were somewhat cliche, “take-out-the-trash-right-now-or-else-and-just-you-wait-till-your-father-gets-home” type characters. (In contrast, one of the things I adore about the Toy Story franchise is the absense of Andy’s dad. Where is he? Does it matter? Not really, beause he doesn’t advance the story). Similarly, the token appearance of the dad in this film seemed forced at the end.
Milo, of course, succeeds in rescuing his mom from the Martians, and there is a big song and dance and can’t-we-all-just-sing-and-get-along number at the end. Okay.
In all, I texted through a lot of the movie, one of my daughters fell asleep, my other daughter fiddled with her glasses a lot of the time, and my son seemed mildly entertained. He was actually more interested in the outtakes of the motion capture production at the closing credits. He asked me several questions about the action-sensing jumpsuits, motion capture, CGI, and animation in general.
I guess that’s something.