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'Mars Needs Moms' needs more humor

Ki, voiced by Elisabeth Harnois, is a Martian graffiti artist in the new Disney movie Mars Needs Moms. 

Walt Disney Studios

Ki, voiced by Elisabeth Harnois, is a Martian graffiti artist in the new Disney movie Mars Needs Moms. 

You'll want to stay through the closing credits of the new motion-capture animated adventure Mars Needs Moms, a film from the people who gave us The Polar Express. The credits include four minutes of clips of the real-live cast of the film — Seth Green, Joan Cusack and Dan Fogler among them — wearing motion-capture suits, with dots covering their faces so that the sensors can digitally mimic their movements, actions and facial reactions as they act out what's going to be animated.

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It's fascinating and also the lightest and funniest part of this film, based on a novel by Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed.

Cute characters drive this tale, a movie more interested in action beats than in big laughs.

Milo (voiced by 11-year-old Seth Dusky, though "acted" by Green) hates taking out the trash and won't eat his broccoli. And when Mom (Joan Cusack) lays down the law — "No broccoli, no TV" — he revolts.

"My life would be so much better if I didn't have a mom at all," he says.

Milo, who looks to be about 11, learns a big life lesson with that. Words can wound. He makes his mom cry.

Imagine his guilt when, a few hours later, she's abducted by aliens. He scrambles after her and learns an awful secret — Mars needs moms. And not just any moms — good moms. Ones who lay down the law and teach their children respect, discipline, manners and values.

Milo is at a loss about how to rescue Mom until he himself is saved by Gribble, a nerd played by Dan Fogler. Gribble stowed away to Mars just as Milo did and has survived, built robots and filled his own junkyard lair with hi-tech gear.

Milo has mere hours to convince Gribble to help rescue his mother before her brain is cooked, hours to find and meet a Martian graffiti artist (Elisabeth Harnois) in revolt against the regimented matriarchy of Mars.

Director Simon Wells can handle digital chases, shoot-outs and such. But laughs? He doesn't do well with the ones the script sets up.

There's a subtext here, too. Plainly, Breathed, the author, has some mommy issues he was working out — women running a planet are too busy to nurture their own babies.

It all makes for an intricate — if slow and somewhat humor-starved — early Mother's Day present in which a boy learns just how much his mom means to him. Mars needs moms, but Milo needs Mom even more.

. FAST FACTS

Mars Needs Moms

Cast: The voices of Seth Dusky, Joan Cusack, Dan Fogler and Elisabeth Harnois

Director: Simon Wells

Running time: 1:29

Rating: PG for sci-fi action and peril

The Times does not grade moves its critics don't review.

'Mars Needs Moms' needs more humor 03/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 11, 2011 7:24pm]

    

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