Friday, March 11, 2011

Mars Needs Moms - A Family Disney Movie That Appeals to Kids, Parents & Grandparents - Opens March 11

Family Movie Review
Mars Needs Moms (In Disney Digital 3D™ and IMAX® 3D)
Walt Disney Pictures/ImageMovers Digital - Opens Today

MommyBlogExpert's Triplet Daughter
AMC IMAX Theater, Burbank, Calif.
iPhone Photo by Janis Brett Elspas,

A 9 year-old boy named Milo says, “My life would be so much better if I had no Mom at all.”  

That’s the key line that sets in motion Walt Disney Pictures' Mars Needs Moms, the IMAX 3-D film that I previewed Wednesday night with my 13 year-old triplets at the AMC Theater in Burbank, California.

I imagine many of you parents are probably nodding your heads knowingly right now.  Most of us have either said those awful words to our own mothers and/or had those hurtful comments spoken to us by our kids or grandchildren.  I know I have been on both sides of this unfortunate conversation, both as a kid and a mom.

When my family and I have the opportunity to see a kid-friendly movie built around such a loaded statement as the one Milo makes, I usually do several things.   First, I do my own exit interviews and ask each of my children immediately after seeing the film what their initial reactions are.  In the show biz world this is what they call an audience tracking survey.
AMC Theater Box Office. Burbank, California
 iPhone Photo by Janis Brett Elspas,

Next, I ask the kids for their input the next day to see if there are any notable changes or expanses in their opinions.  Finally, I find it very helpful to sleep on it before I write about a film like this that I can personally relate to.  That’s because the review angle route I end up taking always seems to take a complete 360 from what I originally would have done had I been on a same-night deadline like the well-known movie critics often are.

Hey, I’m only a mommy blogger, trying to raise four kids who all happened to be born within a year.  My second job is doing frank content-rich reviews about family friendly topics for my readers, so here goes my own take on this latest Disney project.

Disney’s latest motion-capture film Mars Needs Moms is based on the book Mars Needs Moms! by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed.  The title was inspired by an interaction between the author/illustrator's real-life son, also named Milo, and wife.  

The screen version is a wild and funny adventure in Disney Digital 3D™ and IMAX® 3D directed by Simon Wells (The Polar Express, The Time Machine, Prince of Egypt) and co-written by Wells and his wife Wendy Wells, who are parents of two daughters.  
Mars Needs Moms Movie Scene
Image by Walt Disney Pictures 2011

A bit of trivia: Simon is the great grandson of H.G. Wells, the science fiction author of The War of the Worlds and many other great classics.

The Technology
The film -- made in partnership with ImageMovers --  is produced by Academy Award®-winning director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump).  To capture the action on film, called performance capture, thespians wore special body suits that were marked with dots that were then used to map out the characters movements and facial expressions, using Avatar-style computerized animation.

“Our actors wear sensors,” Zemeckis explains.  “They perform the entire movie using their bodies, voices, faces as if they were on stage—it’s like a black-box theater.  We captured the performances in 3D, taking the emotional essence and wrapping settings, character appearances and creatures around those performances.” 

The story begins with a mishap involving a child named Milo and broccoli – a vegetable I recently used to illustrate my DealPop guest post about kids eating healthy.  

Watching the scene from the planet Mars, Milo’s mom is singled out for her all-around model parenting skills, resulting in her abduction by Martians.  That's because the Red Planet’s nanny-bots need a parenting primer to properly raise their own hatchlings that are sprouting like potatoes back home.

As the plot rockets forward, Milo finally shows regret for his actions, but it is already too late. The Martians have taken his mom and he hitches a ride to Mars to get her back.  The majority of the rest of the film’s action takes place as son faces his own fears while attempting to rescue mom.  The good news is that he does find her.  Then, there’s a twist of events when his mom ends up saving his life instead.  Isn't that what moms are really for?

Characters & Cast
The character Milo character is acted out by two people: Seth Green (Austin Powers Trilogy) does the action with the youngster’s voice coming from 11 year-old child performer Seth Dursky (TV commercials & Nickelodeon's Big Time Rush).  

Two interesting tidbits. First, the name "Seth" in Hebrew translates to "gift" in English.   Second, the fact that the two actors share the same first name is purely coincidental.

Other major members of the cast are Dan Fogler (Gribble), Joan Cusack (Milo’s Mom), Elisabeth Harnois (the rebel, Martian Ki), Mindy Sterling (the Supervisor), Kevin Cahoon (Wingnut).  Fogler, a Tony Award® winner and star of Kung Fu Panda also currently stars in Take Me Home Tonight an R-rated movie that is definitely not suitable for underage youth.

The Movie Review
My kids had very different reactions to the movie, ranging from just saying that it was boring to identifying with the badly behaved boy to showing empathy for the mom. I attribute this to the fact that my children are 13 year-old triplets + one more all born within a year -- so they are at the upper edge of the audience demographic for this PG movie.

For sure, my own teens are at the crest right now, half way between childhood and being full-fledged adults.  Still, I think this film has the potential to be best received by the 8-12 age-range audience it seems to target as well as by these kids' parents and grandparents.  I'll talk more about the latter audience demographic in a minute.

Mars Needs Moms Movie
Image from Walt Disney Pictures 2011

Disney’s movies -- whether rated G or PG – certainly are notorious for their messages when it comes to the relationships of parents (and in some cases extended family) with their young. 

Think the film The Lion King, for example.  Walt Disney Pictures has historically been well regarded for double but parallel storylines that make movies possible for kids and parents to watch side by side.

In the latest production from Disney, the take away for kids is obvious.  You really do need (or want) your mom at any age.  Also, it also confirms that you'll never should stop appreciating her.  For a parent though, (since I am one myself), I think the message is much more introspective and complex.

On the one hand, moms and dads must see that kids need to be kids and as their guardians we need to permit them safe space to express themselves independently of the child-parent-caregiver relationship.  

But, on the other, as moms (and many dads too) we have a natural need to feel needed and to nurture the children we are raising whether they are biologically-related, adopted, or fostered.  So, the challenge for us adults is to balance being there for our children, even when they’re rejecting us.

Mars Needs Moms, on a much larger scale, speaks tomes about today’s world and is a true example of art imitating life.  In my eyes, Disney’s latest animated venture paints a sad, but true assessment about what is going on in our society right now.  

For most of the movie, rearing children is seen strictly as the domain of the robotic women who work very hard, but fail to succeed in meeting the needs of their charges.  As a consequence the results are disastrous for Mars.

The fantastical Martian males (both adults and babies) are depicted as detached from the women and girls, as well as from family life.  Definitely, negative stereo-typing.  So much so, that the guys on Mars are literally living out their lives on a lower level, in the planet’s garbage dump for most of the movie.

Unfortunately, the reality is that here are on earth there are still too many single moms raising fatherless kids who have never known their dads.  

Which is where I want to bring up the grandparents.  That is because in today’s community, especially here in the U.S., there are now Baby Boomers who are grandmas and grandpas raising their kids’ kids in record numbers.

Burbank Police Cars, Downtown Burbank, 2011
iPhone Photo by Janis Brett Elspas,

It’s also why I think Disney’s script is so clever successfully crossing over its appeal to multiple generations effectively for the first time.  I’m not a grandparent yet myself, but many others my age are.  

Based on experience, I don’t think I’ve seen more imagery or heard more 1960s slang lines spoken in any animated feature since 1969 than in Mars Needs Moms.  I mean, when was the last time you saw a psychedelic VW bus or for that matter heard any one say, “Right on,” or “Dig it,” or refer to our law enforcement as, “The fuzz?”

Mars Needs Moms offers something that kids, moms and dads, and grandparents can all take home. These are truly gems of wisdom to prize above all else.

I guess it really takes a family and a village to raise kids to become contributing members of society.  To borrow a 60s phrase and line from this film, "To give that crazy love thing to each other."  That and more dads, like my hubbie, who are involved in their children's lives and who actually do change diapers and help us weary mommies with our babies.

MommyBlogExpert's Hubbie
Holding 2 of Our Infant Triplets After Changing Their Diapers
Vintage photo by Janis Brett Elspas,

That, in a nutshell, is why I think kids 8-12 as well as parents and grandparents of this age group should go see Mars Needs Moms.  Best of all, unlike its purported competition also opening today -- Sony's Battle: L.A. and Warner Brothers' Red Riding Hood which are both rated PG-13 -- Mars Needs Moms is rated PG.

Are you going to see Mars Needs Moms? Why or Why Not?  If you've already seen it, what did you think? Also, what’s your all-time fave Disney animated film that has appeal to both kids and parents? Feel free to leave comments to any of these questions below.

FTC Disclosure:  I received movie passes for my family to see Mars Needs Moms with me from SocialMoms and Walt Disney Pictures to facilitate this movie review.  MommyBlogExpert did not receive any payment or other compensation related to this post.  See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's main page and at the bottom of every individual post on this blog, including this one.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, i've been dating whether or not to take the kids to see this movie, or to wait and see hop in a few weeks! Maybe we'll just see both!