Review in a Hurry: Adapted from a children's book by Bloom County artist Berkeley Breathed, Mars Needs Moms is visually inventive and occasionally emotionally potent, but feels overly padded in its attempt to stretch such a short story to feature length.
The Bigger Picture: Following a thorough, broccoli-related scolding, young Milo (voiced by Seth Dursky, motion-captured by Seth Green) loudly opines that life would be better if he didn't have a mom at all.
Little does he expect invaders from Mars to come and grant his wish! But before long, he's hitching a ride on the rocketship of malevolent mom-nappers, en route to the red planet, where her brain patterns will be transferred to disposable robot nannies.
Mars has gender issues to the extreme: the males, who are confined to lower levels of the planet, like to dance around mountains of trash, and vaguely resemble the kind of crowd you might see at a poetry slam, but with even more body hair. The women, meanwhile, who look kind of like anime caricatures of Cameron Diaz, run around shiny corridors wielding weapons.
With the aid of the planet's only human resident, an overweight man-child named Gribble (Dan Fogler), Milo must rescue his mother before her mind is wiped. This will involve a lot of precarious maneuvering around massive chasms, and discovering just how it came to be that the Martians lost the mothering instinct.
Fans of Breathed's artwork may be disappointed that his drawing style is nowhere in evidence; the production design owes more to Star Wars and Wall-E, while one of the subplots draws heavily on Joe Dante's Explorers. But there's undeniable heart—the potential despair over losing mom (Joan Cusack) and her love weighs heavily about the proceedings, and may be too intense for younger viewers.
And there's something both quaint and heartening about the notion that '60s hippie-style love (one Martian girl becomes inspired by old transmissions of a flower-power TV sitcom broadcast from Earth) will ultimately triumph over disposable technology. Those who fought the culture war in the other direction may disagree.
The 3-D effects are effective, specifically enhancing action sequences that rely upon the viewer's vertigo for their tension. Out-takes of the actors in mo-cap suits that run over the end credits are almost as enjoyable.
Still, even at the alleged 88-minute run time, the material runs thin, with characters frequently over-explaining just to make the story a little longer. It's still plenty of fun, but would have been an outstanding short.
The 180—a Second Opinion: For a family film, the hint of romance between Gribble and a female Martian is just a little too creepy in its implications.