Plot: What’s it about?
I’ve often said, in other reviews for animated films, that this “new wave” of movies seems to play to both adults and children alike. This is by and large true and it’s given us gems like “Toy Story”, “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Shrek.” But the preponderance of these films isn’t always good because as long as there are good films, there will always be bad ones. “Mars Needs Moms” was one of Disney’s big budget films of 2011 and with a price tag of 150 million, it’s safe to say that expectations were high. Unfortunately when your film is not that good, people usually won’t go see it (evidently this same theory doesn’t apply to the “Transformers” films). And as numbers don’t lie, “Mars Needs Moms” might go down as one of the all-time flops as it only took in $20 million at the US Box Office. So what went wrong? Let’s take a look at the plot and see if that had anything to do with it.
Milo (voiced by Seth Green) is your typical pre-teen. He’s lazy, doesn’t obey his mother and, of course, doesn’t eat his vegetables. All of his problems pale in comparison, however, when his mother (voiced by Joan Cusack) is kidnapped by Martians. Milo manages to hitch a ride and before they know it they’re on Mars. Milo manages to elude the plethora of Martians and bumps into Gribble (voiced by Dan Fogler), another human who’s made his home in the guts of the underworld. Gribble is able to essentially see and do anything he wishes and sees Milo as more of a toy than a young boy attempting to find his mother. As we might expect, there’s a small group of rebels amongst the Martians and they express themselves by littering the buildings with some sort of psychedelic art. We all know that the real issue is will Milo be able to save his mother and live happily ever after or will the Martians use her “motherly gene” for their own good?
I really wasn’t that put off by “Mars Needs Moms”, though I’ll admit that I’ve seen better films. After I’d finished watching the movie, I looked up a few reviews and was surprised to see the pandering it took by some of the critics and audiences. I mean, it wasn’t that bad! Yes, it was formulaic and predictable, but so are some of the other animated films. The movie was aimed at children, so you figure cartoonish characters (like Gribble), some fancy effects and cool scenery would do the trick. Evidently you would be wrong. The box office for the film was so dismal that it literally affected the release slate for Disney for the remainder of the year. They even cancelled a movie “Yellow Submarine” that was set to use the same technology that this film employed. So while I don’t think it was that bad, I don’t think that I’ll be watching it again anytime soon, either. If you want to stay in this genre, you’ve plenty of other choices, but if you’re looking for great picture and sound quality, this one is hard to top.
Video: How does it look?
“Mars Needs Moms” is available in a variety of formats and the 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer doesn’t get any better. Granted, any of the “computer animated” films generally always merit a perfect video score and this is no exception. Colors, though on the darker side, look brilliant, the psychedelic graffiti seems to leap off the screen and the technology used in these newer films is getting very close to lifelike. There were a few scenes that, if paused, would have fooled me into thinking it was a live-action movie. Detail is amazing, black levels and contrast are spot on and I found no errors in the least. If you want to show off how good something can look on Blu-ray, this is a good place to start.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio is just as amazing and this DTS HD Master Audio mix delivers on all levels. The LFE are very active and I found every channel to be in use in some capacity during most every scene in the movie. The only down side, audio-wise, is the opening few minutes but the latter portion of the film more than makes up for it. We’ve got explosions, ray guns (we are dealing with Martians, after all) and everything in between. Vocals are strong and Dan Fogler’s voice has no problems being heard. Truly for all the shortcomings this movie has in regards to plot, it more than makes up for in the technical arena.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The “three disc” is a bit misleading as the first disc houses the movie and supplements, the second is a DVD of the film and the third a digital copy for your mobile device. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of supplements, though the “Life on Mars: The Full Motion-Capture Experience” is worth a watch. This picture-in-picture feature can be viewed with or without commentary. We see actors Dan Fogler and Seth Green as they “make” the film, though it’s not an option to listen to the commentary itself. There are some 30 minutes of deleted scenes in various stages of completion as well as two brief featurettes: “Martian 101” dealing with the made up Martian language and “Fun with Seth” as we see Green cut loose.