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Simon Wells
Joan Cusack, Seth Green, Dan Fogler, Elisabeth Harnois, Mindy Sterling, Kevin Cahoon, Tom Everett Scott
Writing Credits:
Simon Wells, Wendy Wells, Berkeley Breathed (book)

Mom needs a little space.

From Disney and Academy Award-winner Robert Zemeckis comes the craziest adventure this side of the galaxy Mars Needs Moms. Take out the trash, eat your broccoli who needs moms anyway? Nine-year-old Milo (Seth Green) finds out how much he needs his (Joan Cusack) when she's nabbed by Martians who plan to steal her mom-ness for their own young. In a race against time and oxygen, his quest to save her knows no bounds. And with some unexpected help, Milo just might find his way back to her in more ways than one. Complete with intergalactic bonus features, it's a thrilling journey that's pure, out-of-this-world crazy fun.

Box Office:
$150 million.
Opening Weekend
$6.914 million on 3117 screens.
Domestic Gross
$21.345 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Descriptive Video Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 8/9/2011

• “Fun With Seth” Featurette
• “Martian 101” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes with Director’s Introductions
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Mars Needs Moms [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 18, 2011)

Though Berke Breathed became best known as the creator of comic strips like Bloom County, he also writes books. One of those became adapted into a movie circa 2011’s animated Mars Needs Moms.

Nine-year-old Milo (voiced by Seth Dusky, motion acted by Seth Green) finds his mother (Joan Cusack) to be a nag, so much so that he tells her he wishes he didn’t have a mom. He regrets this and eventually goes to apologize but when he gets to her room, he finds her gone.

Where did she go? As it turns out, there’s a shortage of maternal units on Mars, so the Martians kidnapped Milo's mom, who they determined to be an effective parent who could raise their young.

Milo chases after them and ends up as a stowaway on their ship back to Mars. When they arrive, the Martians discover him and imprison him. However, he manages to escape, aided by another human named Gribble (Dan Fogler).

The fellow earthling tells Milo that Martians hatch from the ground every 25 years and need someone to raise them; though the Martian leaders are female, they lack good parenting skills, so they create “Nanny Bots” to do the work. However, the Martians need a way to program the Bots with the appropriate abilities, so they kidnap moms, extract their memories and insert them into the machines.

Milo doesn’t want his mom to lose her memories, so he sets out rescue his mother. Gribble agrees to help, though with an ulterior motive: he wants Milo’s mission to fail so he can rescue the kid and convince the youngster to stay as his pal forever. None of this goes according to either plan, so we follow the adventures that ensue.

Producer Robert Zemeckis helmed other animated flicks like Polar Express and Beowulf, but here he cedes the director’s chair to Simon Wells. Make no mistake, however: Moms looks and feels just like the flicks Zemeckis led.

And that’s what we call “a bad thing”, since those had flaws – technical flaws, primarily. These Zemeckis films use motion capture instead of standard drawings, and the technology just isn’t there to make the elements convincing. These flicks shoot for a fairly photo-real look; they’re improved since the zombies of Polar Express but they’re still decidedly unnatural.

Movement does work well, I must admit, as the characters tend to look real when you simply pay attention to that side of the film. However, the art remains ugly and off-putting. We see rubber faces, dead eyes and an odd disconnect between mouths and dialogue. Maybe someday these motion capture flicks will become more satisfying, but right now, they remain tough to watch; the animation just doesn’t work.

If I subtract my feelings about the movie’s style and just consider the story, I feel more pleased with Moms - though not tremendously so. I’d be curious to read Breathed’s original story; given his comic strip work, I’d expect something a little more barbed and charged than this pretty milquetoast tale. It follows fairly trite lines and lacks much real life or development as it goes, particularly in Milo’s case. Sure, he learns some inevitable lessons, but he never becomes much more than an agent for occasional action.

Gribble actually gets the movie’s biggest character arc; we find out how he ended up on Mars and see him change along the way. Helpful Martian rebel Ki (Elizabeth Harnois) gets some personality as well, though she’s there more to assist in the plot than much else.

Much of the flick opts for a mix of action and comedy, though it occasionally attempts serious emotion. Normally I’d appreciate that kind of material, but these moments tend to feel gratuitous in Moms; the scenes come across as forced and somewhat artificial stabs at melodrama.

Still, even with some of these storytelling concerns, Moms offers decent entertainment. It’s certainly not a bad movie, but its inconsistencies build up a little too much along the way. Add the ugly visuals and this one doesn’t live up to potential; it has its moments but doesn’t fulfill its goals.

Footnote: stick around through the end credits for a little more about the characters as well as raw motion capture footage of the actors.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus D+

Mars Needs Moms appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The image usually looked spectacular.

At all times, sharpness excelled. Even in the widest shots, the movie appeared crisp and well-defined; the movie boasted consistently stunning definition. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and the presentation lacked edge enhancement. It also failed to present any source flaws and appeared totally clean.

Colors worked well. Much of the movie took place in a sterile, metallic setting, but enough bright hues – like Ki’s graffiti paint – appeared to give the image life. The Martian exteriors also offered a strong red tint that looked solid, so all of the tones were terrific. Blacks seemed deep and rich, and shadows were acceptable; they could be a little thick at times, but not tremendously so. The minor opacity of the dark scenes was the only reason I didn’t give this transfer an “A+”; it really jumped off the screen otherwise.

While not as impressive, the film’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack also had a lot going for it. Speech was the weakest link. As I mentioned in the body of the review, dialogue often failed to fit the animation very well, and the quality of the lines was a factor. Speech always seemed intelligible, but the material could be somewhat stiff and felt a bit artificial.

Otherwise, audio quality was fine. Music was full and dynamic, and effects seemed solid. They came across as accurate and concise, and they showed good range; during the louder sequences, effects sounded deep and bold.

The soundscape opened up the material well. The sci-fi setting allowed for good movement and activity. We got elements like laserfire, space ships and a mix of other pieces that showed nice placement and transitioned among speakers nicely. These combined to create a good, involving setting. The issues with the speech knocked my grade down to “B+”, but this was still a strong mix.

A handful of extras flesh out the set. Fun With Seth runs two minutes, 28 seconds and gives us remarks from director/screenwriter Simon Wells and actors Seth Green and Elizabeth Harnois. We hear about how wild Green was on the set and see footage from the shoot. That’s the best aspect of “Fun”, as we get some good glimpses of the process. Don’t expect much meat, though, as this is a cutesy piece without much to it.

In the two-minute, 51-second Martian 101, we hear from Wells, Harnois, and actors Mindy Sterling, Kevin Cahoon and Stephen Kearin. We learn about the development of the film’s Martian language and discover the meaning of some terms. It’s another puffy piece but it’s an enjoyable little recap.

Seven Deleted Scenes fill a total of 28 minutes, 31 seconds. We find “Extended Opening” (2:48), “Begonia Attack” (2:10), “Adlibs from Gribble’s Lair” (4:03), “Swinging Bridge” (0:46), “Angry George Ribble” (5:37), “Gribble Growing Up” (4:20) and “Mars Monorail” (5:09). These exist in various stages of completion, though most come as rough animation.

As you can tell from the titles, we get a fair amount of Gribble from these. One of the most significant shows more of him as a child; it’s moderately interesting though way too long to have worked in the final film. “Monorail” provides a decent action bit, and some of the others are mildly enjoyable.

Note that the 28:31 total includes introductions from Wells. (The individual scene timings are just for the sequences themselves.) Wells tells us a little about the segments and why he cut them. He adds good info, so the intros deserve a look – and are easy to skip if you’re not interested in them.

The disc opens with ads for Prom, The Lion King and Winnie the Pooh. These also appear under Sneak Peeks along with promos for The Lion King on Broadway, Disney XD, SpookyBuddies, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and DisneyNature: African Cats. No trailer for Moms shows up here.

A second disc provides a DVD Copy of Moms. This delivers a normal retail copy of the film, so it includes a few extras.

Like the other motion capture flicks under the Robert Zemeckis banner, Mars Needs Moms loses major points due to its awkward, unappealing visuals. Even with better animation, though, it’d still be a mixed bag; while moderately enjoyable, it’s an awfully up and down ride. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals, very good audio and a minor complement of bonus materials. The movie’s a watchable disappointment that does look great on Blu-ray.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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