Mars Needs Moms marks the latest film from Robert Zemeckis’ ImageMovers Digital studio, and, like such past efforts from the company as 2006’s Monster House and 2009’s Disney’s A Christmas Carol, the animation in the film has been completed using the motion (or performance) capture process. This basically means that the actors have all been fitted with special suits that capture their every movement, with that information then used by animators to bring the characters to life.
The technology often results in creepy animated characters that resemble their human counterparts far too strongly, with the zombie-like figures that inhabited Disney’s A Christmas Carol seeming to indicate that the motion-capture genre had run its course. But with Mars Needs Moms, mocap is, for the most part, used surprisingly well, as the animation style seems like an appropriate fit for the futuristic storyline.
It doesn’t hurt that filmmaker Simon Wells and his team of animators have placed the characters in environments of a striking and downright jaw-dropping nature, with the scenes set aboard the Martians’ expansive home base standing as the most obvious example of this – as Wells takes full advantage of the computer-generated animation style to infuse such sequences with a larger-than-life, almost epic science-fiction feel.
When we first meet him, Milo (voiced by Seth Dursky, acted by Seth Green) is an average nine-year-old boy who loves video games and hates broccoli. Little does Milo know, however, that he and his mother (Joan Cusack) have been under surveillance by Martians for a while, and it’s not until Milo wishes that he didn’t even have a mother that the aliens swoop in and kidnap Milo’s mom for their own nefarious purposes.
But before the Martians can get away, Milo pursues them into a field and winds up stowing away on their futuristic rocket. Once on Mars, Milo eventually finds himself face-to-face with another human – a quirky adult named Gribble (Dan Fogler). Gribble has managed to evade the Martians’ advances by hiding within an enormous junkyard, where he has established a home base that’s overrun with computers and advanced technology.
Though Gribble is thrilled to finally have another person to spend time with, Milo immediately sets out to rescue his mother from the Martians’ clutches. Gribble reluctantly agrees to help Milo with his efforts, and the two eventually wind up receiving assistance from a sympathetic alien named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois).
The Voice Cast
In a rather unusual move, the filmmakers decided to use two actors to portray the central character – with Seth Green acting out the role and Seth Dursky providing Milo’s voice. Green does an excellent job of becoming this enthusiastic, plucky young boy, with the actor’s expressive performance mirrored by Dusky’s energetic voice work. Cusack and Tom Everett Scott are solid as Milo’s concerned parents, while Mindy Sterling turns in an impressively vicious performance as the film’s larger-than-life villain. And although Fogler is initially somewhat grating as Gribble, the actor manages to transform his lonely character into a figure worthy of the viewer’s sympathy.
The Bottom Line
Mars Needs Moms is hardly in the same league as Pixar or DreamWorks Animation, but then, it doesn’t really seem to be going for that kind of a feel. Instead, Wells and his team have crafted a fun, consistently entertaining adventure film that feels like a throwback to the summer movies of the 1980s – including The Goonies, Gremlins, and Back to the Future. And while the film is by no means perfect – it does feel a little long at times and Gribble’s lair is almost oppressively grungy – Mars Needs Moms is a solid computer-animated flick that should leave adults just as satisfied and entertained as kids.
Mars Needs Moms was directed by Simon Wells and is rated PG for sci-fi action and peril.
Theatrical Release Date: March 11, 2011