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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Mars Needs Moms (Blu-ray)
Mars Needs Moms (Blu-ray)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG // August 9, 2011 // Region A
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted August 17, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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Highly Recommended
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Mars Needs Moms
is a surprisingly heartfelt and moving film about the importance of family. The trailers and other promotional materials released for the film suggested a much weaker one and that was no doubt one of the elements that prevented the film from becoming a success in the box office. The film was a gigantic box office bomb within the United States and internationally. Despite the harsh financial outcomes of this film's release the reality is that the film itself is much better than advertised and it is likely going to be quite some time before the film manages to receive the kind of acknowledgements it most likely deserves.

The story is simple but enough to carry the film. Milo (performed by Seth Green using the motion capture technology and voiced by Seth Dusky) is a young boy who doesn't entirely understand how much he needs his mom (surely he does deep down inside, but he doesn't show it).  His mother (Joan Cusack) is kidnapped by aliens and brought to the planet Mars. As it turns out, the aliens believe that they need the skills and mindset of earth moms in order to raise their infants properly (the tech-made moms are sometimes a bit faulty it seems). Milo goes after his mother and manages to follow his mom into space on the same spaceship being used to bring her to the planet Mars. Milo's mission is to rescue his mom and to return home with her in one piece. That's essentially the core element of the plot, but a sidekick character named Gribble (Dan Fogler) also brings an interesting side-story, and so does Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), a female alien of Mars who loves bright rainbow colors (but has to rebel against the government of the planet which apparently outlaws all bright colors and only likes darkly dim, gloomy tones). 


Simon Wells is no stranger to animated film-making. His work on other efforts such as An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Balto, and The Prince of Egypt are particularly noteworthy. Wells also has the benefit of having directed real-life actors as well with his sci-fi thriller The Time Machine (based on the classic novel by H.G. Wells -- Simon Well's great-grandfather). Wells was a wise choice as director of this film (probably by no coincidence he wrote the screenplay with his wife Wendy Wells). He brought a passion to the project as a film-maker, and the film wouldn't have been as visually inventive without him. Unfortunately, as both a director and screenwriter he is guilty of having written a character who is rather annoying for a great portion of the film:  Gribble (Dan Fogler) brings too much unnecessary humor to the film that never fully plays out the way the film-makers intended. When the character is in dramatic-storytelling mode there is a revelation about his character that is handled rather well and that actually does help to elevate the material and the film is all the better for it. For a great portion of the film (even if these moments are spread throughout the film) it is just a bit too much and it mostly detracts from an otherwise enjoyable film than anything else.

Mars Needs Moms was an ambitious production on every level. For starters, it was a hugely expensive production. Robert Zemeckis' ImageMovers Digital was essentially bankrupted and Disney called it quits on the company.  Motion capture technology is still a relatively new way of creating animation and capturing performances using real actors who wear the outfits necessary to record their performances before translating them in to animation is no small attempt at making a movie. It's innovative but it comes with its own set of positives and negatives: increased possibilities often come with an increased cost.

Seth Green brings an impressive motion-capture performance to the screen as Milo and really manages to make the story believable when it is being told through his eyes. Milo is ultimately a good kid and he just wants to be there for his mom in the end. None of this would have been as successful though without an impressive performance from Joan Cusack.

The animation can tend to be a bit hit or miss. The motion capture technology has improved over time but it still retains a storybook quality that seems fitting for certain films (The Polar Express) but less satisfying when the narrative doesn't seem to fit the criteria quite as well. The background animation is fully realized though, and it is an immersive world on mars that viewers will enjoy being taken to if only to marvel in the technical wizardry.

The film never tries to tell a truly complex narrative but it makes up for this with thematic relevance. The story actually manages to pull at ones heartstrings and the end result is a film that is authentic emotionally and far from superficial. That is ultimately Mars Needs Moms greatest strength. It is a family-made film made for other families to enjoy and cherish together.

Family is important. This review will end on a bit of a sentimental note: The love a child has for his or her mother is one of the most powerful things on this planet. I know for certain that I would not even be half the man I am if it were not for my mother, whom I love and will always love. This film serves as a reminder to everyone of just how important a mom can be. After all... where would any of us be without our mothers?


The Blu-ray:  


Video:

Mars Needs Moms arrives on Blu-ray in a stunning High Definition presentation that rivals the best of the best in technical marvels. The 2:40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is preserved on the disc and it is marvelous to behold. Colors are often muted in the film but they are of the upmost quality. The CGI is ultimately very impressive and the presentations seem free of any flaws whatsoever. This is a demo-worthy disc when it comes down to the film's PQ.

Note:

The images featured in this review are from the DVD release and do not represent the High Definition Blu-ray picture quality.

Audio:

The AQ is equally engaging and it is likely one of the most sonically rich 7.1 surround sound DTS-HD Master Audio tracks on the entire format. This is top-tier audio that accurately and wonderfully reproduces every audible element. It's a notable sound-mix that seems quite complimentary to the high-end PQ and it sounds amazing for 5.1 systems too. Wonderful! Audio is also available in Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are included in Spanish, French, and in English (for the deaf and hard of hearing).


Extras:

The extras department has decidedly mixed results (much like the film in some ways). The light extras (at only a few minutes apiece) are Martian 101 - a short look at how the film created the Martian language. It is an amusing piece that demonstrates how attempts were made to actually make the language authentic sounding for each necessary segment. It's a fun extra but it would be a big stretch to call it particularly informative. The other short bonus feature is entitled Fun With Seth and is about what one might expect with that kind of title. It's a short video featuring moments of actor Seth Green goofing off while not filming. He remains in his motion-capture suit throughout the video. It's a comical inclusion but it's over almost as soon as it began.

The extras become more comprehensive with deleted scenes (and an extended opening) which bring more insight into the overall effort of the production. These are worth watching and director Simon Wells offers a video introduction that helps to make sense of what is included on the release.

Lastly, the most notable extra on the entire release is a feature length commentary featuring a small video screen in the corner featuring motion capture footage.  This is an interesting and often funny commentary track that includes Simon Wells, Seth Green, and Dan Fogler. The group manages to spend a surprising amount of time juggling comments back and forth between lighthearted humor and some serious thoughts on the film. The end result is a commentary track that is more comical than informative, but for some that might be just the right kind of experience to have. It's easily the highlight of the bonus materials.

Final Thoughts:

Mars Needs Moms isn't a perfect film but it's far from being the failure that one might think it is based on its financial failings. This is an engaging and emotionally rich work about love and family. Its emotional honesty makes it a much more rewarding experience than what any of the trailers indicate. While I have a few qualms with the film, the good far outweighs the bad and this is one to check out with loved ones. The PQ/AQ is out-of-this-world (pun intended) and the extras feature an interesting commentary track that is worth ones time.

Highly Recommended.  

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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