‘Mars Needs Moms’ comes off dazzlingly dull

by David Dixon

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Most family films attempt to convey a message kids and adults can appreciate. Typically before the movie concludes on a heartfelt note, there are various lighthearted, action oriented or comedic moments that add to the entertainment. Sadly, these elements do not add up in the latest Disney production.

“Mars Needs Moms,” a story adapted from a children’s book of the same name, is a computer animated science fiction story about 9-year-old Milo (voiced by Seth Robert Dusky and motion-captured by Seth Green). Similar to many children of his age, he rarely listens to his mother (voiced and motion-captured by Academy Award nominee Joan Cusack). After a brief argument, Milo knows he has to apologize to his mother. Unfortunatly, before he

gets the chance, an alien spacecraft abducts them. This starts a quest that eventually continues on Mars, where Milo tries to save his mother from strange creatures with mysterious motives of their own.

Using performance-capture technology, a complicated combination of live action and animation, there is definitely a good amount of eye candy from beginning to end. The action scenes work in the context of the tale. Director Simon Wells makes the sequences visually enjoyable because of their action-spectacle quality.

There are poignant moments that give the parable some heart. One revelation toward the end might even connect with parents, because it suggests some people will do anything to help those they love.

“Mars Needs Moms” fails to get its message across effectively because a good amount of the movie is forced comedy. This is especially true with the character Gribble (voiced and motion-captured by Tony Award winner Dan Fogler). He is a pop culture-spewing geek who wants to assist Milo. The jokes Gribble makes, including ones about Ronald Reagan and “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” could have worked if the writing from Simon Wells and Wendy Wells felt more natural.

Fogler is not to blame for the missed opportunities of solid comedic timing. His vocal delivery is fine, and a moving monologue about Gribble’s past suggests that he should consider auditioning for some dramatic roles in his future.

Another problem with the movie lies within the logic behind the plot. It does not make much sense that Milo would have to go on a journey to another planet, to help him realize his mother is the most caring person in his life.

“Mars Needs Moms” does have a lesson that could appeal to some, but gets lost in the many instances of lackluster laughs. It might have been better if the humor was toned down, because there are glimpses of a stronger motion picture.

As in the case of numerous shows for children, the purpose is full of good intentions. But by the time the lights turn on in the theater, it may be hard to remember what those intentions were.

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