One aspect of being a parent to children who are aware of pop culture is that you must often endure situations that you would normally avoid like the plague… and for me, that usually entails seeing animated movies that for various reasons either bore me silly or creep me out in one way or another. The new Disney movie Mars Needs Moms managed to give me both feelings all wrapped up in a trite sentimental little gooey confection. It isn’t really horrible… but I would probably groan at the idea of having to see it again.
In the spirit of not being a total downer, I will point out the best part of this movie first… the animation and 3D are remarkable. The scenes on the Marian planets’ surface as well as below are beautifully rendered… and in a later scene under the planet’s underground habitat (more on that in a moment) the visual splendor of Avatar pops out in a way that you realize you have forgotten what color was in the matter of an hour. The creepy for me comes in the form of that odd waxy look some people have in this type of animation. For whatever reason, one human character looks great… but the other two humans look a bit strange.
Allow me to spoil the plot for you… Milo (motion capture acted by Seth Green, yet he had his voice replaced with an 11 year old, which begs the question, whose performance is it? Not to mention the fact that he looks more like Frankie Muniz than Seth Green) is a typical 12 year old boy who complains about taking out the trash and doesn’t want to go bed… but his mom makes him… OMG!… and Martians, as you may have guessed, need moms… so they kidnap her in her sleep, leaving Milo all alone (because his father is away on business and disappointed his son immediately… again, more on that shortly). Milo chases after her, realizing the last thing he said to her was that he didn’t want a mom, and manages to get caught up in the spaceships landing gear and into the ship itself. Off they go to Mars where Milo is captured, escapes with the help of weird fat Earth guy living amongst the trash under the Martian living space.
OK… regarding the Martians living quarters… they live underground which is why we can see them. Also, only female Martians rule and militarize this world and they are horrible mothers. Therefore, once every 25 years when Martian children are born from the planet itself like potatoes (really… they even say, like potatoes) they must find a wonderfully disciplined and stern mother on Earth in order to steal her memories to download to their nannybots (because Martians girls are reared only by robots) and vaporize said Earth mom. Milo must save his mom with the help of the weird fat Earth guy, Gribble, and a Martian woman, Ki, who has learned English from watching a 60’s era TV show with hippies and asks such pertinent questions as, “What is turning on? Tuning in? And what do you drop out of?” and exclaiming “Right on man” whenever possible. Did I mention she also tags the Martian world like a flower power Banksy? Yeah… doesn’t that sound great? Ohhh… I almost forgot…. Gribble and Ki have a bit of a ‘thing’. Interspecies romance… awwwwwwww.
My apologies if I have spoiled the movie for you… I’ve left a few key things out for you to discover for yourself if you are implored by your spawn… but I don’t think I can recommend seeing this sober or fully awake. I was both… perhaps it would have been better in an altered state. The other aspect of this that bugged me a bit was the way males are depicted. I may be reading into this a bit too much, but in two human instances the men are absent (at least one seems nice) and in the Martian world they are strictly goofy, hairy (a point is made of this), partying and hugging buffoons… yes, hugging. Women are strong warriors and stern figures. It’s a bit of a twist, and perhaps while writing this I’m getting the point a bit more… role reversal and all… but as a fully invested and loving father/husband/mensch/dude I get annoyed at the constant negative male depictions.
The animation is wonderful… I’d like to leave this with something positive to say… I’ve wallowed enough for one day.
Mars needs plot,
Cornelius J. Blahg