Mars Needs Moms? Okay. But first, movie needs a little help.
Sure, there is a pinch of charm and a decent message in Disney’s latest stab at the hit-or-miss exercise of performance capture, the very complex process that involves mingling animation with a live actor’s movements and facial gestures. Past results in such a procedure have ranged from not too bad (A Christmas Carol) to kinda creepy (The Polar Express). A winning record? I think not.
But here’s the good news. With Mars Needs Moms, the focus isn’t on the visual bells and whistles, rather the story. Now, for the bad news; the story ain’t exactly a beauty either.
It isn’t a total miss though – in fact, lively in pace and energetic in vocal performances, kids might really dig it. And really, that’s who this stuff is for, right?
The tale centres around nine-year-old Milo, performed by Family Guy’s Seth Green, but voiced by young Seth Dusky (word is, during post-production, the team figured that Green sounded too old for a nine-year-old. Hmm. Ya think?).
Anyhooo, Milo discovers that his mom (Joan Cusack) has been kidnapped by aliens desperate for maternal knowledge.
Milo stows away on a ship to the red planet, where he meets a goofy human castaway named Gribble (Dan Fogler) and a friendly graffiti-obsessed martian (Elisabeth Harnois) who’s into the counterculture of the 1960’s. Note to the screenwriters; when you throw ideas at the wall, they don’t all have to stick!
No matter, the characters are pretty likeable, which makes the rescue mission easier to take. And any rumblings you’ve heard about Mars Needs Moms taking swipes at genders, etc. … well, it’s a tad ridiculous. The heart of the movie is about how important moms are to their children – period.
Sure, it’s a bit of a bumpy, awkward, slightly unsettling (sorry, this performance capture stuff really isn’t working for me) and not-overly-dazzling ride to get there. But it gets there.
Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give Mars Needs Moms a two and a half. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.
Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.