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Movie Review: “Mars Needs Moms” a witty space rescue

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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.”

There are four minutes of clips of the real-live cast of the film, Seth Green, Joan Cusack and Dan Fogler among them, wearing the mo-cap suits, dots covering their faces so sensors can digitally mimic their movements, actions and facial reactions.

It’s the lightest and funniest part of this film, based on a novel by “Bloom County” cartoon creator Berkeley Breathed. Because though it delivers a couple of lovely, touching moments, “Mars” still has that plastic look.

Cute characters and a “Star Wars”-derived plot — rescuing a damsel from a heavily garrisoned “citadel” — drive this tale. It’s not bad, and is considerably more kid-friendly than the trippy and more adult-oriented “Rango.” It’s just not as much fun as a live-action version of the same story might have been.

Milo (voiced by Seth 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.” Imagine Milo’s 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. They grab Milo’s so that they can use her brain to encode their nanny robots, which they use to raise baby Martians miles below the surface of the planet.

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

Milo has mere hours to persuade Gribble to help rescue his mother before her brain is cooked.

Director Simon Wells worked on “Prince of Egypt” and “The Time Machine” and is right at home with the endless digital chases, shootouts and such. He and his animators also deliver a couple of those big emotional moments that gave “Up” and “Toy Story 3” their pathos. But laughs? He doesn’t do well with the ones the script sets up.

It all makes for an intricate if slow and somewhat humor-starved early Mother’s Day present. “Mars Needs Moms,” but Milo needs Mom even more.


“Mars Needs Moms”

PG for sci-fi action and peril. Directed by Simon Wells; written by Simon and Wendy Wells and Berkeley Breathed. Starring the voices of Seth Green, Joan Cusack and Dan Fogler.

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