I think “WALL-E” is the pinnacle of science fiction for kids but after seeing “Mars Needs Moms”… I still feel that way. It’s not really sci fi anyway; it’s more action-adventure in zero gravity, with voice work by “Robot Chicken” guys Seth Green and Dan Fogler.
The earthbound portion of the story is set in Anywhere, USA. Little Milo (voice of Seth Green) doesn’t like taking out the garbage. When his mom (Joan Cusack) gives him a firm, but effective talking to, she unwittingly becomes a Martian overlord’s first choice as the model mom for the nanny bots that raise that planet’s young’uns. When she is abducted Milo hitches a ride, determined to rescue his mom from the alien invaders.
The surburban part of “Mars Needs Moms” bored me silly but once the movie hits Mars it perks up. Milo stops being a whiny kid, the action kicks in, the female Martians look like ET’s younger sisters and the Mars background animation is spectacular, kind of “2001” by way of “Triumph of the Will” and “Brazil.” Too bad the character animation isn’t as consistent. Milo’s mom has a-not-quite-human feel about her, and there’s some fluxuation in Milo and his friend Gribble but for the most part look amazing.
“Mars Needs Moms” is standard Disney. It’s a well made piece of family entertainment—it should appeal to eight and nine year olds, but anyone younger than that might find it a bit intense—with some action and good messages for kids about family and friendship. And even though it’s probably the first Disney movie to feature a purple nurple, it doesn’t strive to be anything more or less than standard.
Superstar astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “Mars has become a kind of mythic arena onto which we have projected our Earthly hopes and fears.”
For more than a hundred years, the idea that life could exist on the fourth planet from the Sun has been a sci-fi staple. In 1898 H. G. Wells wrote the most influential Martian invasion novel of all, The War of the Worlds, later adapted by Orson Welles into the most famous radio show ever. In a less serious vein, Marvin the Martian, a cartoon character voiced by Mel Blanc, gave us the catchphrase, “This makes me very angry. Very angry, indeed.” Years after Marvin’s 1948 debut he made another appearance as the mascot on the Spirit rover sent to Mars.
This weekend, Martians invade movie theaters in Mars Needs Moms, the story of little green marauders who kidnap human moms, joining a long list of Mars movies.
The 40-foot tall Martian in The Angry Red Planet, a low budget 1959 flick, was actually a 15-inch tall puppet made from elements of a rat, bat, spider, and crab. The campy creature was later featured on the cover of the Misfits’ album, Walk Among Us.
A few years later, Robinson Crusoe on Mars used Death Valley as a substitute for the barren terrain of Mars and was so low budget it recycled props from other movies. The aliens are seen dressed in the spacesuits from Destination Moon and Martian spacecraft were borrowed from The War of the Worlds.
The year 2000 was a big one for Martian movies. Red Planet, starring Val Kilmer, Carrie-Ann Moss, and Benjamin Bratt as astronauts sent to Mars when Earth’s efforts to colonize the planet are disrupted, features cinema’s first computer voice to be completely computer generated.
Also released that year was Mission to Mars, the Brian De Palma film about the first manned mission to Mars. The movie flopped domestically—it only has a 25 per cent Rotten Tomatoes rating—but was chosen as one of the top pictures of 2000 by Les Cahiers du cinema.
Not all Mars movies are actually set on Mars, however. Despite its title, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, the comedy duo never actually makes it to the red planet. First their rocket lands in New Orleans, then Venus, where the Venusian women are all played by Miss Universe contestants.