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Mars Needs Moms

By: Addison Wylie

Mars Needs Moms has a lukewarm title, a seemingly silly premise, and it utilizes motion capture animation some movie goers are quite frankly getting tired of. However, I’m not one of these people. I’m also someone who will look past a cheesy title and story and figure out for myself if the film was worth my time. I was greatly surprised with Mars Needs Moms. The story managed to take hold of me, the voice acting was executed quite well, and even though the film is geared towards a younger audience, the film was still able to make me sit on the edge of my seat during intense action sequences as well as make me laugh during humorous exchanges. Mars Needs Moms is all of this plus an excellent way to introduce your young ones to the Science Fiction genre.

Mars Needs Moms explains that martians exist and they have babies; lots of them. Because the martians want to bring up the infants properly, they have Nanny-Bots teach and care for the youngsters. In order to charge these Nanny-Bots with knowledge, the martians need Earth Mothers in order to extract their memories and download them into the Nanny-Bots.

The martians search and search for the next perfect Mom. This is when they stumble upon Milo’s family. Milo, played by Seth Green but voiced by Seth Dusky, doesn’t understand why his Mom, played by Joan Cusack, is always hounding him about chores and eating vegetables. After a dispute about an early bedtime, Milo angrily expresses how he doesn’t appreciate his Mom. That night, Milo’s Mom is transported to the martian mothership. Milo sees this and bolts towards the ship; hitching a ride with them and becoming imprisoned on the ship looking for his Mother.

Mars Needs Moms is not only a great Sci-Fi film for youngsters but it’s also an impressive movement piece. The motion capture filmmaking asks the actors to don a suit covered with censors where a computer records their movements. Animators take these recordings and apply them to their animations. Using this method of filmmaking is very demanding towards the actors in regards to how they’ll have to move their bodies while also staying in character. The whole cast does a great job embodying their own characters but the true stand out here is Green’s portrayal as nine-year-old Milo. During the movie, the audience completely forgets that Milo’s movements and mannerisms are being created by a 37-year-old comedic actor. There’s a short video during the credits where movie goers can watch the actors perform in the studio and see just how a movie like this is shot. We can also see how Green absorbs the character. Even though this time we’re seeing Seth Green perform in front of us, we still believe in that nine-year-old and see him on screen; Green is that good. Colour me impressed.

Producer Robert Zemeckis has utilized similar motion capture animation in films he’s directed such as The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol. Mars Needs Moms is directed by Simon Wells and even though Zemeckis isn’t in the Director’s chair, that heartfelt emotion behind the story and the characters is still apparent. This affection is transferred well through the direction but it’s also marked in the screenplay Wells co-wrote alongside with his wife Wendy. The characters are packed with resonating empathy and are fun to watch. They story is able to play around with exciting and surreal situations and flashy visuals while also keeping the tone and the overall message genuine. With that said, the story and the dialogue tends to drift into cheesy waters briefly; namely during the conclusion. When the characters figure out what they’re supposed to learn from this adventure in Space, the film takes on an after school special vibe with characters monologuing their realizations. There’s also a scene when Milo is trying to communicate with the drone martians using hand signs and movements cueing the martians to act out Milo’s movements. It’s a scene that starts off as cute and soon takes a turn for the shabby. It may also be a problem with how voice actor Dusky is trying milk all the laughs he can get by over-articulating his speech during this scene.

The animation is the same animation we’ve seen before. However, I’ve never jumped on the mo-cap hate train. I think the technique is very impressive, visually appealing, and can show an actor’s true talents. Here though, there’s a bit of a problem. Any character on Mars looks amazing. The animators have done a stellar job adding a lot of detail to make these exaggerated people and creatures look incredible. However, Milo and his Mother look very generic. In fact, there are shots taken from a bird’s eye view and it looks incredibly similar to the popular computer game, The Sims. Their faces aren’t defined that well and they end up looking like caricatures, especially the Mom character.

I look at the Box Office numbers for Mars Needs Moms and it makes me sad. This movie should not be bombing. It’s a movie that both parents and children will be entertained with. As I sat in the theatre, I couldn’t help but observe all the eyes glued to the screen and even though there were a lot of young children present, there was not one peep during the entire runtime. I’m telling you, no matter what dimension you see this in, this is an excellent choice of movie to take the whole family to.

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Categories: Reviews
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  1. June 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm

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