Mars Needs Moms (2011) – Directed by Robert Zemeckis – Starring Seth Green, Tom Everett Scott, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois, Dan Fogler, Dee Bradley Baker, and Mindy Sterling.
I almost decided January was going to be “Box Office Bombs” Month instead of “Catching Up with 2011” Month, which means that MARS NEEDS MOMS was going to get covered either way.
Apparently, I hate myself.
MARS NEEDS MOMS is the kind of movie that I find so dreadful about 15 minutes in that I want to stop watching. I’ve done this before – the craptacular Hobo with a Shotgun couldn’t keep me entertained, but I stuck with MARS because of three reasons: 1. I’m a fan of Berkeley Breathed, whose book of the same name (which I haven’t read) serves as the basis for the movie, 2. the film is actually really great to look at so long as there aren’t any humans on the screen, and 3. I was desperate to find one character in the movie that wasn’t completely annoying.
The answer to that question is: at 37 minutes, we meet Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), who is only 3/4 annoying.
MARS NEEDS MOMS is such a fine technological achievement and such a colossal storytelling disaster that I find myself agreeing with the idea that Zemeckis has gone of the deep end, becoming far too interested in what he can get his machines to do and not interested enough in the story he’s telling. There’s no way to know that for sure, of course, but it’s the only theory I can come up with that fits this movie. To be clear, as pretty as all the backgrounds might be, MARS NEEDS MOMS is a dreadful movie, with a story told in such an unappealing manner that I don’t know how Zemeckis ever let this film get off the ground, let alone out the door.
The basic plot of MARS NEEDS MOMS is that, well, Mars needs a mom to help program their nanny bots. They kidnap Milo’s mom (Joan Cusack) because she does a good job keeping Milo (played by Seth Green, voiced by Seth Dusky) in line. On the night of her kidnapping, Milo says he’d be better off without a mom, then the Martians come and kidnap her, he gets pulled into the spaceship, goes to Mars, and then has a wacky adventure as he tries to save her. In defter hands, there’s plenty of potential here, but everything about this story is told in an irritating, off-putting manner.
Let’s start with Milo. The only thing that could make Milo more annoying is if he was voiced by Jay Baruchel, who officially has the Worst Voice Ever. Milo is a complete dick to his mom, but worse than that, even when he travels to Mars to save her, he can’t stop being annoying. Almost everything he says is voiced in a whiny, pleading, half shout. Even when he gives voice to why he wants to save his mom, it’s because of what she does for him, so he never really advances past being a selfish assh*le. Plus, the whole performance capture business makes him look creepy.
Then there’s Gribble (Dan Fogler), who might literally be the most annoying character in an animated movie ever, depending on how you classify Jar Jar Binks and the entire cast of Song of the South. Gribble basically led Milo’s story years earlier, and he serves as a symbol of what happens if you grow up without a mom and watch too much TV and play too many video games – which is to say you grow up to be fat, annoying, and socially awkward.
But mostly annoying. Seriously, the guy walks around saying things like, “Gribbletastic.”
Then there’s Ki, the well-meaning, bright, full of life Martian rebel, who is totally awesome in spirit, but a disaster in speech. She’s seen a few Earth programs and has adopted the lingo of Earth even though she doesn’t fully know what it means. She says things like, “What is up? What is going down?”
Who thought those were good lines?
Ki paints all over the staid Martian buildings, which is cool, but then they turn her into a silly little lovesick girl just because Gribble’s face changes color. You know, because he’s a guy and she’s a girl.
There is one moment in the film that isn’t annoying and that’s when Ki shows the Martians that things were not always as mechanical as they are now. Martian society used to have whole families before the Supervisor turned everything cold and robotic. When the female soldiers realize that things used to be different, it’s a real moment.
So there you have it – a whole film with one honest moment amidst one of the most annoying set of characters ever assembled on film. I don’t like trashing horrible films, but every once in a while a big pile of horrible makes it’s way to the theaters, and MARS NEEDS MOMS is just such a film. If nothing else, it proves that not even assembling talented people across the board is a guarantee of mediocrity, let alone success.