Making the Grades
Mars Needs Moms, but not just any mom. Searching the Earth from a very powerful telescope, Martian "Supervisor" (voice of Mindy Sterling) is on the constant lookout for humanoid mothers who know how to corral their offspring. Rejecting mothers who hopelessly crater to requests for treats and favors, she comes upon the quintessential "Mom" (voice of Joan Cusack) who helps to ensure her son Milo (voice of Seth Green) eats his vegetables and takes out the trash.
For Milo, having a caring and dedicated mother doesn’t seem like such a good deal. With his Dad (voice of Tom Everett Scott) out of town on business, an evening of entertainment gets kyboshed after Mom discovers the vomiting cat, and not Milo, has consumed the broccoli from dinner. Sent to bed early, the boy has some extra time to consider his feelings and the harsh words spoken. Deciding it’s time to apologize, he enters his mother’s bedroom. He arrives just as she departs—in a Martian spacecraft. Fortunately he’s able to literally hitch a ride as the craft leaves Earth.
Once on the red planet, Milo is anxious to find his mom. He soon meets Gribble (voice of Dan Folger), another human who is older than himself, but acts much younger. Living in squalor next to a Martian garbage dump, Gribble is excited to discover someone from his own world. Still he is initially hesitant to become an accomplice in Milo’s rescue mission. Eventually the quest begins, with the pair enlisting the help of a young Martian named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois). She desires to change her drab and totalitarian society (mainly through the use of graffiti) and embrace Earth’s hippie culture (which she has adopted after watching old television shows).
Mars Needs Moms is created using the strange art of motion capture animation. Personally there is something that just doesn’t sit right with me about this technique. I’m certain there are cost savings in creating a virtual Martian environment, yet I found myself yearning to simply see the actors… especially as they do all the required physical movements anyway. (If you stay for the credits, you will have an opportunity to see some of the motion capture sessions.) The 3D effect this movie employs is another technique I’m hoping will either improve or slowly fade away.
Despite my quibbles with the artistic production of the film, no one can accuse it of not having the best of intentions. After viewing, young audience members should leave feeling renewed appreciation for their maternal mentors. However, the embedded messages are anything but subtle and likely won’t do much to convince the adolescent crowd. At the same time, little Earthlings may be frightened by the many moments of peril, especially a scene where a mother is oddly incinerated or vaporized through a solar furnace device. Another sequence depicts a firing squad and although the guns are of a sci-fi variety, the net intent is still the same.
While there is nothing wrong with creating a serious story aimed at a young audience, when a firing squad is wrapped in cartoonish glitz it mixes two genres that are an awkward match. Possibly suitable for older children and teens, it appears when it comes to making movies for children, Hollywood Needs Moms.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Mars Needs Moms.
Do you detect any stereotypes in this movie? How are mothers depicted? How are males viewed? How do both genders contribute to society? In reality, do you think there are roles and responsibilities that can only be fulfilled by one gender?
When Milo lists the most important things a mother does, the first thing he states is, "She takes me to Disneyland!" Why do you think this was the top item on his list? (Hint: Check the production company that made this film.) How do endorsements like this differ from outright commercials? How often do you hear or see similar advertisements in other movies?