Mars Needs Moms – Film review

Matters maternal

Release Date: 8 April 2011
PG * 88 minutes
Distributor: Entertainment One
Director: Simon Wells
Cast: Seth Green, Seth Robert Dusky, Dan Fogler, Elisabeth Harnois, Joan Cusack

Robert Zemeckis, Back To The Future director turned producer, brings us this animated, heart-string plucking tale of filial love and maternal devotion.

It centres on young Milo (acted by Seth Green and voiced by Seth Robert Dusky) who stows away aboard a spaceship to follow his kidnapped mum (Joan Cusack) when she’s kidnapped by Martians. The despicable Martian matriarchy wishes to extract her essential “momness” and use it to power nannybots to raise a new generation of hatchlings. When Milo gets there, all seems lost, until he hooks up with a fat thirtysomething named Gribble (Dan Fogler) – a previous kid stowaway grown to manhood, and dissident Martian poppet Ki (Elisabeth Harnois).

After Beowulf and The Polar Express, Zemeckis has plenty of practice at this kind of venture, and in terms of spectacle, this is the best yet. The 3D work is superlative, well beyond what one sees in most films, with encompassing environments and an impressive depth of field. The animation too – much provided via motion capture work – is of the first order, and SF veteran Doug Chiang’s production design is as pretty as always.

The story’s not too shabby either. It’s basically a big chase, but there are some good laughs, it’s pacy enough to whizz us on by the sometimes repetitive narrative (down into the Martian waste dump, up into the city, down into the waste dump…) and although it’s hard to see little boys admitting that they really do love their mummies – as much as the film wants them to – Mars Needs Moms does provoke a few lumps in older throats, for all you may decry its mawkish Stateside sensibilities. The fact that Gribble still behaves like a kid is a bit unbelievable, but again, this is a children’s movie, and in that context all the characters function.

Technically proficient though it is, Mars Needs Moms is probably not destined for classic kid-flick status, but it is a solid, vibrant family film that parents and young-ish nippers can enjoy together. A shame, then, that ImageMovers Digital, Zemeckis’s Disney-owned motion-capture studio, was shut down after the film wrapped.

Guy Haley