I like to think of myself as pretty hip when it comes to special effects. I love watching movies push the envelope and try new things. In fact some of my favorite classic films are ones that at the time of their release were breaking new ground in terms of special effects and animation in film.
With that said though, I absolutely HATE special effects put in place simply for the sake of having special effects and animation in a movie. Cool effects need to flow with the rhythm of the movie and seem natural within the plot. I also cannot stand animated movies that try very hard to look real. Which is why when I recently was able to watch Mars Needs Moms (recently released on DVD) it was lost me from scene one.
The type of animation used in Mars Needs Mom, performance-capture animation, is the same animation used in Polar Express and A Christmas Carol. Basically this almost human CGI effect quickly crosses the line between cool to creepy and frankly, the plot just wasn’t strong enough to help me get passed the creepy.
I live by the old school code, if I want to watch a live action movie, I’ll watch one. If I’m watching an animated film, I want it to look animated not like a creepy attempt at making animation look live action.
Based on the horrible reviews and how much of a flop Mars Needs Moms was in the theater, I guess I’m not the only one who felt this way. And Disney is pushing the heck out of the DVD release in an attempt to try and make up in DVD sales what they lacked in ticket sales. But they won’t be getting my money.
Polar Express, though not quite as creepy as Mars Needs Moms, creeped me out with it’s live action animation as well, but the plot was so fabulous and sweet that I was able to easily move past the animation and enjoy what is now one of my favorite holiday movies.
Mars Needs Moms failed in the plot department as well. The plot goes something like this. Milo is a young boy whose mom is kidnapped by Martians who believe their Martian babies should be raised by robots trained in human parenting skills. So they kidnap Milo’s mom so they can take her skills or mom power, or whatever (I was never really clear) and put them into the robots (truthfully, I think this was the case, I was never really clear on THAT plot point either). Milo makes his way to Mars where he meets up with another human ally and teams up to rescue his mom.
I think somewhere, if you look really hard, you can see that somehow there was supposed to be a message here about the importance of moms. But it was lost in the constant reminder that the best things about moms is that they vacuum and take care of the house and stuff. Which, yes some of us do, but that’s not all we do. And I was disappointed that Disney held onto to its continued theme of the absent father figure. Milo’s dad is shown calling to say he won’t be home in the beginning of the movie, and then finally getting home at the very end of the movie. Also the men or “fathers” on Mars are all tribal men who dance and have fun and are shown to be quite stupid, which is why the woman Martian in charge decided long ago to ban them all to the core of the planet and send all baby boys to the core as soon as they’re born as well.
Again, I think there was supposed to be a message there, but I’m not sure what it was. Men are stupid apes and moms are great because they vacuum?
My kids thought it was OK, but were not over the moon about it. Which actually says a lot considering they love everything. I think the creepy dark animation and the convoluted attempt at a plot just confused them and left them not really sure what the movie was about at all.
Which is basically how I felt. If you are so inclined to give Mars Needs Moms a chance, by all means go ahead. Just don’t expect too much of it and maybe you won’t be disappointed.