Directed by: Simon Wells (The Time Machine)
Starring: Seth Green, Dan Fogler, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois, Mindy Sterling
Probably the most interesting thing about Mars Needs Moms is that it supposedly stars Seth Green, but what that means is another matter. You see, because the film was made in that ghastly motion-capture animation process, Green was able to act the role of Milo before being digitally turned into cartoon Milo, but because he wasn’t able to sound like a 9-year-old, Milo’s voice was dubbed by a real kid (Seth Dursky). This perhaps redefines what starring in a movie means. Then again, I’m not convinced of the actual box office value of Green’s name—something that may be answered by the film crashing and burning on opening weekend.
What really is there to say about the movie otherwise? The plot is thinner than single-ply toilet paper. Milo (Green/Dursky) ill-advisedly hurts Mom’s (Joan Cusack) feelings by saying his life would be better without her—only to find her being kidnapped by Martians to act as the source for “nanny-bots” to raise their hatchlings. Naturally, he has to rescue her. That’s about it, though it’s painfully padded out with other characters like Gribble (Dan Fogler), an earlier Mom-rescuing attemptee who ended up stranded on Mars, and whose frame of reference extends no further than Top Gun (1986) and Reagan. There’s also a revolutionary named Ki (TV actress Elisabeth Harnois), who learned all she knows from some ersatz 1960s sitcom with hippies. This is the level of invention.
I will note that a couple of 5-year-olds in the audience found it hysterically funny. Not being 5 years old, I merely found it perfunctory, mediocre and very, very tedious. I got more laughs out of Red Riding Hood. But then I remain completely perplexed by this fixation—mostly, it seems, by producer Robert Zemeckis—with the whole motion-capture process. It has yet to result in characters who look even remotely like living human beings. The faces are rubbery and the eyes are glazed-over and dead looking. The effect is somewhere between an embalmed corpse and a zombie. The potential charm of a skillfully animated character is completely lost in the bargain. Unfortunately, for a movie that wants to assault your tear ducts with its message of appreciating your mom, so is all sense of humanity. Rated PG for sci-fi action and peril.