Mars Needs Moms

15 Apr

Title: Mars Needs Moms
Year:
2011
Director:
Simon Wells
Writers: Simon Wells and Wendy Wells, based on the book by Berkeley Breathed
Starring:
Seth Green, Tom Everett Scott, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Hanois, Dan Fogler, Dee Bradley Baker, Mindy Sterling
MPAA Rating:
PG, sci-fi action and peril
Runtime:
88 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
4.2
Rotten Tomatoes:
35%

Robert Zemeckis I think should really start moving away from animation and back to live-action films. His forays into motion-capture, a medium he dearly loves, haven’t really been all that spectacular, but what they have been is incredibly expensive. He obviously started it all in 2004 with The Polar Express, which cost $165 million to make and grossed a bit over $300 million. Then came Beowulf in 2007, along with a $150 million price tag and which made a bit less than $200 million at the box office. And then in 2009 came A Christmas Carol which cost nearly $200 million and made around $325 million.

I’m giving a rundown of his affair with the motion capture technology to illustrate the results it has achieved. Critically none of those three films have been a hit, I guess Beowulf was quite good but it was nowhere near as amazing as some of Mr. Zemeckis’ live-action films such as Back to the Future or Forrest Gump. And commercially even though they have all made a lot of money, they also cost a huge amount to make, and even though they have all made more money than they cost to make I think it’s safe to say the studios expected a bit more than that.

Now, Mr. Zemeckis is only a producer on Mars Needs Moms, but his style of animation is still definitely felt here. And, don’t get me wrong, the film still looks really really great, because this style of animation when under the supervision of Mr. Zemeckis will always look seriously well-made and detailed. Not to mention that the voice cast this one has does a great job at playing their characters, but ultimately this one just doesn’t have much else going for it. The story is good but nothing spectacular, and there’s no real heart in it.

But I still support what Mars Needs Moms tried to accomplish, even if it didn’t do it all that handsomely. And that’s because it still looks like a real polished piece of 3D animation, which is to the credit of the meticulous eye of Mr. Zemeckis’ animation company. The director for this one is Simon Wells, who even though had only served as a director on traditional animation films back in the 90’s with films like The Prince of Egypt and Balto (a film I remember liking as a kid) does have some experience with digital animation as a storyboard artist for films like Madagascar, Shrek 2 and Antz.

The story of the film tells is that of a young boy named Milo, who, after having his mom abducted by martians the night they had an argument about broccoli, really finds out just how much his mom means to him and goes along to rescue her to Mars. He gets captured by the martians at first but then he finds out there’s another human living there and he saves him.

So you see, there was potential here to make something quite good. But that potential is quickly squandered because even though the animation is polished and looks nice and all, Mars isn’t made to look as awesome as it could have, many times just composed of monotonous images that do nothing to stimulate the viewer, moreso considering this is a 3D film. But the potential is squandered mostly because, as I said, this is a film with no heart in it.

Not to mention that this film is about the relationship Milo has with his mother, who’s voiced by the amazing Joan Cusack, so it’s not like there wasn’t any opportunity to put a lot of heart into it. And yet the story just didn’t do it for me, the level of animation was most certainly there, but if you have nothing to back that up it’s as good as nothing, which is why every animation studio should always start with the story and then focus on the aesthetic side of it all, which is something that Pixar understands all too well and obviously has the perfect results to show for it.

However, ImageMovers, the company of Mr. Zemeckis, won’t have another chance to find its perfect story that had so far eluded them. That’s because Disney has already closed it to save up costs, further backing up my point that its movies weren’t really making the money they should have been. But still, for the three animated films I mentioned above they did with Mr. Zemeckis directing, plus this one and Monster House with him as a producer, the company still left with a very distinct trademark style of animation. And even though Mars Needs Moms isn’t the highest of notes to go out on, it’s still one that certainly proves how much their brand of animation has evolved, especially in how they portrayed human emotions in faces, and as that it’s worth commending.

Grade: B-

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