Review: MARS NEEDS MOM (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 28 March 2011

Review: MARS NEEDS MOM (2011)

RATING: 2.5/5

With a corny title like MARS NEEDS MOM and especially the kind of animated feature produced under the Walt Disney banner, you might expect this is another hit-or-miss feature. Upon watching the trailer, I feel turn-off by the filmmakers' decision to shoot this picture in motion-capture animation pioneered by Robert Zemeckis in movies like THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004). However, I feel surprisingly different when I watch the entire movie. Yes, the motion-capture animation is as creepy as ever but MARS NEEDS MOM is blessed with an uplifting message about peace, love and the importance of family, which makes the movie quite a cinematic treat to check out for.

When his mother (Joan Cusack) is abducted by Martians in the middle of the night, 9-year-old Milo (Seth Green) tries to save her by running out across the backyard before the alien spacecraft about to take off back to Mars. Milo is somehow manages to get into the spacecraft as it launches off the sky.

Upon arriving on Mars, Milo explores the huge space station in attempt to locate his mother but almost gets himself killed by a bunch of heavily-armed Martian androids. He manages to escape from danger, and subsequently finds himself befriending a neurotic earthling named Gribble (Dan Fogler) who's been living in Mars for years. He also learns that the Martians, lead by the tyrannical Supervisor (Mindy Sterling), is actually handpicked any potential mother from Earth and have the person transported back to Mars so she can be extracted out of her memories and downloaded into an army of nanny-bots. This is where his mother is about to suffer if Milo doesn't take action as soon as possible.

So he begs Gribble to help him save his mother at all cost before it's too late. Gribble helps him to get back into the space station, where Milo also befriends a high-spirited Martian lass named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), whose kaleidoscopic graffiti suggests the color of harmony life.

On paper, the premise is certainly simplistic enough but Simon and Wendy Wells' screenplay manages to spin a good old-fashioned yarn that is surprisingly involving yet it's genuinely heartfelt. They does their job efficient enough to create a colorful cast of characters that we actually care for. Each of the characters here (Milo, Gribble, Ki and Milo's mother) has their own conflict and motivation behind their course of action that make them all the more humanistic feel.

While Dan Fogler's Gribble tends to get annoying with his neurotic and sometimes desperately unfunny presence, his character manages to grow on you especially after we subsequently learn the side of his heartbreaking story. But of all the characters, it is Elisabeth Harnois's Ki the most exciting and vibrant performance to check out for. In fact, she steals the limelight from everyone each time she appears and her peace-loving nature inspired by the '60s hippies era is simply uplifting enough to make her such a likable character. Despite only appearing a handful of scenes, Joan Cusack's role as the strict but caring Milo's mother is as spontaneous as usual you normally expect from her.

While the core of the story succeed admirably in its heartfelt message, MARS NEEDS MOM remains in question when comes to visual panache. No doubt the overall visual elements are striking, but all the $150 million-budget that spends in this movie is surprisingly average-looking at best.

On the other side, director Simon Wells doesn't really engages well in term of orchestrating action set-pieces. All those nonstop action in the middle section here are disappointingly cut-rate and uninspired altogether, even though John Powell's inspiring classic sci-fi tribute score does provide some energetic moments.

Uneven technical values aside, the story and the characters are what makes MARS NEEDS MOM a cut above. It's hardly a masterpiece by any means, but decent enough to make this an essential viewing for young and old viewers alike.

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