When Robert Zemeckis' "Polar Express," the first film to be done completely in motion capture, opened in 2004 audiences weren't quite sure what to make of it. The computer-animation looked amazing but the human faces weren't quite right and seemed a bit off. The technology eventually got better with '2007s "Beowulf" and '2009s "A Christmas Carol," as the human faces began to look more normal. That technology has finally been perfected with the new 3D computer-animated film, "Mars Needs Moms," which Zemeckis has produced. The alien creatures and outer space environments are great but it is how true-to-life the human characters look that is really impressive with this film.
In addition to great computer-animation, the film offers a fantastic 3D experience, as you are completely submerged in this outer-space world. The 3D is excellent and never overpowering but rather lends to the story instead of distracting from it. However, the film works because it is well written with a very toughing message at the heart of the film. There are many funny moments in the movie and the adventure moves at a good pace for the most part, with the exception of beginning to drag on a bit in the second act. The characters are well defined and you end up really rooting for them to succeed by the film's conclusion. Since everyone has a mother, no matter what age you are, the film is extremely relatable even if the initial plot is far fetched.
The film begins by introducing us to nine-year-old boy named Milo (Seth Green). Milo is a good kid, for the most part, who always listens to his loving Mom (Joan Cusack). When Milo is disappointed that his busy father (Tom Everett Scott) wont be home for the weekend, he takes his frustrations out on his Mom. After regretting telling her that he doesn't need her, Milo gets out bed to apologize and discovers that aliens are abducting her. Acting quickly, Milo sneaks on to the ship and eventually finds himself on Mars. Upon arrival, Milo is captured by the Martians but is soon rescued by a tech-savvy, human named Gribble (Dan Fogler), who has been living underground on the red planet for years.
Gribble explains to Milo that the Martians aren't good at parenting so they created giant robots to raise their young. In order to program the robots they kidnap good mothers and brainwash them to use that knowledge to program their machines. The Martian's leader is a ruthless dictator known as the Supervisor (Mindy Sterling), who will stop at nothing to obtain Milo's mom's parenting skills. We soon find out that Gribble went through a similar experience when his mother was abducted, but he was unable to save her and has been living in fear of the Martians ever since. Now, Milo is running out of time and will need the help of Gribble, and a rebellious Martian girl called Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), in order to infiltrate the Martian army, save his mother before it is too late and return home to Earth.
As I mentioned, the animation is really impressive and the human faces look very real. Seth Green ("Robot Chicken") plays Milo and he really looks like a nine-year-old version of the fan-favorite actor. Joan Cusack also looks like a younger version of herself as Milo's mom. I was really blown away by the attention to detail in the faces and how real they looked. While Fogler's Gribble at times looked more like the late comedian John Candy than the actor himself, you could still see Fogler's personality shine through the character. The script by director Simon Wells and his wife Wendy is excellent, with the exception of dragging on too long near the end of the second act. Simon Wells does a nice job directing and sets a good pace and tone for the film. In the end, Mars Needs Moms is a well-done family comedy that features excellent animation and wonderful 3D. It's funny, entertaining and full of heart.