Movie Review: 'Mars Needs Moms'

Filed under: Movies



Rated ON for Ages 7 and Up

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this animated 3-D adventure comedy based on the book by Berkeley Breathed is occasionally frightening -- and scenes in which it looks as though the Mom character has died could be quite upsetting for younger viewers -- but it has a very strong message about unconditional love. Because the animation is based on motion-capture technology, some of the tenser scenes (chases, a near execution, close calls with death) seem more realistic and may affect younger kids more than regular computer-generated animation. Expect a few insults ("stupid," "idiot," etc.) and very mild flirting between a female alien and a man who's grown up on Mars. Moms will particularly appreciate the movie's biggest take away: Even when they nag kids to do their chores or send them to bed without a treat, moms love their kids and would do anything to ensure their safety.

The good stuff

  • Educational value: Kids will learn the importance of doing their chores and not saying mean things to their mothers.
  • Messages: This movie has a strongly positive message: that kids should value and appreciate everything their moms do for them (even if it's chores and discipline) because it's all done out of love. There are also positive take-aways about helping friends in need and the importance of being raised by a family. The motivation behind the Supervisor's tyranny is rooted in female empowerment, but along the way it stripped female Martians of the ability to have families.
  • Role models: Mom is an excellent maternal role model: She's fair, loving, and selfless, and she doesn't think twice about saving Milo at her expense. She loves Milo unconditionally, even when he disappoints her by disobeying her. Gribble eventually helps Milo, even though it means that he'll be alone without a human friend. Ki realizes that her Supervisor's laws are unjust and helps Gribble and Milo save Mom.

What to watch out for

  • Violence & scariness: Young kids may be upset to hear that Mom will be killed once her parenting skills are extracted to program the Nanny Bots. And at one point, it looks like she has actually died, which could be more disturbing. The Martian ladies, especially the Supervisor, are an imposing, menacing bunch, and the Supervisor always looks and sounds like she's giving mean orders. Gribble is nearly executed by firing squad (the Martians have huge gun-like weapons). There are some foot chases, and the climactic rush to save Mom and return to Earth is tense.
  • Sexy stuff: Flirting between Gribble and Ki. Gribble keeps blushing in her presence; at the end, they embrace, and she gives him a peck on the cheek.
  • Language: Insults like "idiot," "stupid," and "jerk."
  • Consumerism: Not an issue.
  • Drinking, drugs, & smoking: Not an issue.
What's the Story?

Nine-year-old Milo (Seth Green, whose voice is altered to sound younger) has a loving but occasionally disciplinarian mom (Joan Cusack) who sends him to bed without a movie because he feeds his broccoli to the cat. In response to her nagging, Milo spits out, "I wish I didn't have a mom," leaving her in tears. That night, an alien ship abducts her, but not before Milo jumps aboard and flies back to Mars as a stowaway. On Mars, Milo evades detection by jumping down a trash chute that leads to an underground Martian garbage dump, where all the male Martians are kept locked away by the ruling females. Milo meets Gribble (Dan Fogler), a tech-savvy human who explains that every 25 years, the Martians abduct a good Earthling mother in order to program a flock of nanny robots who raise Martian girl babies. If Milo can't save his mom before programming, she'll die -- and he'll be stuck on Mars forever.

Is It Any Good?

As motion-capture technology advances and produces more and more films, the startlingly realistic animation it produces is no longer as occasionally disturbing as it was when The Polar Express was released. It's easier to just be in awe of it now -- and to see the actors' faces and expressions in every scene. And "Mars Needs Moms," like most animated movies, features a noteworthy comedic voice cast, especially Green as Milo, Fogler as Gribble, and Cusack as Mom.

The film's weak link is the '60s-show-obsessed Martian, Ki (Elisabeth Harnois). She believes in groovy love thanks to watching the same 1960s TV program over and over again. It's funny for a little while to hear her say anachronistic catchphrases, but after a while the joke gets a bit flat. Still, this is a surprisingly tender and sweet adventure that helps kids understand that, despite the rules, the chores, and the bedtimes, mothers love their kids fiercely, unconditionally, and sacrificially. Mothers -- don't be surprised if you cry and your kids hug you extra tight.

This review of "Mars Needs Moms" was written by Sandie Angulo Chen.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.