Now on DVD: Mars Needs Moms (2011)
What were the great minds at Disney thinking? It’s not that Mars Needs Moms doesn’t have a good premise, lacks action, or isn’t creative. It’s just plain scary on an instinctive level. What was the target audience? Mars Needs Moms is too juvenile to appeal to much of the adult audiences and too unsettling for young children.
It’s a great idea: Mars is popping out babies and needs someone to raise them, so Martians kidnap earth moms. Or, more specifically, a particular earth mom (voiced by the wonderful Joan Cusack). She is chosen because of her uncanny ability to get her son, Milo (Seth Green), to take out the garbage. The Martians see her as a model of discipline, someone who can train their girl babies to grow up and be productive citizens.
So what’s wrong with that? Who hasn’t occasionally wished that Mom would be abducted by aliens? The problem is that, despite the imaginative settings and splashy visuals, the story is creepy. Milo manages to get aboard the spaceship that is taking his mother to Mars. Through another earth person—the hyperkinetic Gribble (Dan Fogler)—he learns that the Martians will remove his mother’s memory (to be installed in Nanny-bots) and terminate her. Hanging over the entire film is the specter of mom’s eradication. We already know that Disney kills moms, look what happened in Bambi.
Adding to the creepiness is the animation technique known as “motion-capture animation.” The human characters look like a cross between the characters in a violent video game and zombies. On the other hand, the Martians (for the most part) look interesting and even cute (not the villains, of course). Sometimes we’re rooting for Milo, other times we’re thinking, “Ewwww…”
Full of action and very noisy, Mars Needs Moms may have been meant for boys, or so I thought. Having the opportunity to ask two young men if they knew anything about it, the older (11-years-old) said he had seen it and it was scary; the younger (9-years-old) had never seen it but knew that it was scary (they weren’t together when I asked). Neither boy was interested in watching it. Apparently, word was out on the elementary school grapevine that Mars Needs Moms was not a must-see.Continued on the next page