Mars Needs Moms
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Let's face it, it's a mom's job to keep order in the world. Who else is gonna stop little boys from setting their toys on fire with a magnifying glass? Or nudge little girls into finally taking out the trash? Or restrain little superheroes from jumping off the roof with a bath towel? It's a tough, fulltime job. But good ol' Mom does it so well.
And there's nobody who appreciates that fact more than the citizens of … Mars.
Millions of miles away, they can't help but look on and grow green with envy. 'Cause in their neck of the galaxy things are a bit messed up.
Some time ago the Martian society tossed its males on the junk heap as useless idiots. And the females took over all the official duties. So there's no one to look after the children but nannybots. And that's where a good Earth mom can be so helpful. All you have to do is capture her, vaporize her and feed her memories and maternal instincts into your mechanized caretakers!
And for the current hatchling season, the Martians have a particular Earth mom in their crosshairs: Milo's mom.
She's really good at what she does. Not that 9-year-old Milo would always give her a thumbs-up. Like so many other kids, he gets pretty tired of his mom's smothering attention. In fact, after one heated spat and a subsequent punishment, he just came right out and told her, "My life would be better if I didn't have a mom at all!"
Of course, saying something and meaning it can be two different things. So when the aliens show up to grab his mother, Milo doesn't take it lying down. Mars may need moms, but it's not gonna be his.
From stowing away on the Martian spaceship, to ramming through their multi-level underground city, to taking on the scowling alien leader (an ancient matriarch known as the Supervisor), Milo is ready to put his life on the line to save his mom. He even goes so far as to push her out of the way of a laser blast, taking the hit himself.
Milo meets Gribble, another human who's been stranded on Mars since a similar mission killed his mom. And although this overgrown kid initially just wants to gain a permanent wingman/best bud, he eventually decides to put his security at risk to join Milo's quest. A rebel Martian girl named Ki also joins the effort.
Even more prominent than all that mom-saving heroism, however, is the film's recognition of the importance of a loving family (generally) and of good mothering (specifically). Milo lists all the duties his mom selflessly carries out—she cooks, cleans, gives hugs and kisses, tucks me in at night. And then it fully dawns on him: "She loves me!"
Martian babies are (oddly) shown to hatch out of the ground. But Milo discovers a cave painting that eventually teaches the Martians that a two-parent family was the original, and best, way of doing things.
The Martian women's hips and backsides are emphasized by their formfitting spacesuits.
Martian security agents and the Supervisor shoot lasers at Milo, Gribble and Ki. Milo jumps through a waste-disposal shoot and thumps down with a crash and tumble on a large pile of trash. Gribble remembers trying to save his mom when she was tied to a gurney-like bed. But before he can get there, a spear of focused sunlight vaporizes her (offscreen).
[Spoiler Warning] While attempting to rescue his mother, Milo is knocked to the ground and his space helmet shatters. We see him gasping for air. His mother replaces his shattered helmet with her own—willing to die for him.
Crude or Profane Language
The words "jerk," "heck," "nuts," "dummy" and "oh my gosh" all show up at least once apiece.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Ki incapacitates some Martian guards with a knock-out drug. After seeing the wrinkled Supervisor for the first time, Milo quips, "Mars needs Botox."
Other Negative Elements
When Milo is told to clean his plate, he feeds his unwanted broccoli to the cat. Then we see the pet throwing up behind a houseplant. Gribble tells lies in hopes of getting Milo to stay on Mars.
Flash memories from Milo's mom show him doing silly (imitable) things such as painting the cat and sticking his foot in the toilet. Gribble says he needs a change of underwear after Milo shoots a laser near his feet. When he ignites a jetpack, Gribble yells out, "Fire butt blasters!" A baby Martian pees in the Supervisor's face. Gribble's crush on Ki makes his robot pet vomit nuts and bolts.
When Berkeley Breathed was first asked for his thoughts on the possibility of having his kids' book Mars Needs Moms! turned into a film, he responded with: "This is like throwing my daughter into a pit of tattoo artists and hoping I'll still recognize her after pulling her out. I just hope that they don't draw flaming skulls all over her forehead." But the artist, best known for his Opus and Bloom County cartoons, needn't have worried. Despite what you might think after watching just the trailer, the story book to movie screen transition results in a whimsical adventure that Breathed can still puff out his fatherly chest over.
From my perspective (though it may not mean much since I'm just a dad, not a mom!), the worst that can be said about this whiz-bang space romp is that the man/child Gribble is sometimes a tad obnoxious and the dark 3-D glasses leave the night scenes just a little too steeped in shadow.
Otherwise, the animation sparkles. (It was created with the same performance-capture technology used on The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol.) The story entertains and connects emotionally. (My pre-release screening produced plenty of kiddie giggles and a few surreptitiously wiped tears from the adults.) And the "moms are great and family is essential" message shines through like a sky full of stars on a clear winter's night.
Mars Needs Moms is one of those light family flicks that will likely produce a few extra hugs before bedtime. It'll give parents a warm feeling inside as they wipe popcorn grease from little chins and make sure everyone's buckled in tight for the space flight home. And it'll remind kids that Mom (and Dad) just might be a bit more useful and cool than they thought a couple of hours earlier.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Voices of Seth Green as Milo; Dan Fogler as Gribble; Joan Cusack as Mom; Elisabeth Harnois as Ki; Mindy Sterling as Supervisor
Simon Wells ( )
March 11, 2011
August 9, 2011