Thursday, March 10, 2011

MARS NEEDS MOMS - Intergalactic Family Fun

MARS NEEDS MOMS (animated adventure)
Cast: Seth Green, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois, Dan Fogler, Mindy Sterling, Julene Renee, Ryan Ochoa, Jacquie Barnbrook, Matthew Wolf and Raymond Ochoa
Director: Simon Wells
Screenplay: Simon and Wendy Wells from a novel by Berkeley Breathed
Time: 88 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Gribble (Dan Fogler) and Milo (Seth Green) on Mars

PREAMBLE: With such a straight-forward title, you should know what to expect from this Disney animated space adventure. However, don't let the title fool you into thinking that this is a childish sci-fi fantasy because it is not. It is as engaging as How To Train Your Dragon, and even as visually fascinating as Avatar.

Top that with a highly competent voice cast fleshing out credible characters in spectacular 3D and we have a winner in terms of family entertainment.

THE SKINNY: The reason Mars needs moms is because Martians are hopeless at managing their hatchlings. They use Nannybots to raise their kids and every decade or so, they would kidnap an Earth mother so that they can download her mothering and disciplinary skills into the memory of the Nannybots.

Thus when young Milo (voice of Seth Green) finds her mom (Joan Cusack) abducted by the aliens, he clambers onto the spaceship and is taken to Mars where his incredible adventures begin. First off, he meets another 'stowaway' named Gribble (Dan Fogler doing a fine version of John Candy) who generally helps to orientate him into the intricacies of the planet. Next, he runs into a graffiti painter named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois) who has a fascination for all things Earth. And of course, Milo has to save his mom from the matronly Supervisor (Mindy Sterling)...

Elisabeth Harnois plays Ki, the friendly Martian lass

HITS AND MISSES: As far as the 'audience-suitability index' goes, Mars Need Moms should be just nice for those below 12. Adults, however, would find it engrossing especially its message about motherly love and sacrifice, and of course its wonderfully written characters. The screenplay is written by wife-and-husband team Wendy and Simon Wells (the great grandson of author H.G. Wells). Simon, who also directs the film, has created a gripping intergalactic adventure that will have its young audience rooting for Milo.

I am particularly wowed by some of its 'psychedelic' sequences on Mars that remind me of those of James Cameron's Pandora scenes in Avatar. The movie also uses 'performance capture' technique via producer Robert Zemeckis’s studio, ImageMovers Digital, a rather expensive and long-drawn process. Still, the result is an emotionally and visually absorbing movie.

THE LOWDOWN: Take the kids to the movie if you want them to eat their broccoli.


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