With the continuous rise in quality films (and the buying of existing properties), it’s hard to believe that Disney have had huge flops. However, the company have had their fair share of box office failures…but none as big as ‘Mars Needs Moms’.
‘Mars Needs Moms’ was released in 2011, and is a motion capture animated feature, based on the book by Berkeley Breathed. After Martians kidnap his mum, Milo travels to Mars in order to rescue her, with the help of human Gribble and rebel Martian Ki. He also learns to appreciate and love his mother along the way.
The film took two years to make, using state of the art motion capture to make the CGI animation as realistic as possible. Unfortunately, this is mainly where the film’s downfall was, as the realistic approach made the animation creepy, plus most of the budget went towards this department. In summary, the budget for ‘Mars Needs Moms’ was $150million, and it grossed just over $39million worldwide at the time of writing, making it one of Disney’s biggest box office flops and the 22nd worst box office opening ever.
While the film definitely has its flaws, I enjoyed it.
The plot is interesting and, at the time, unique. The voice acting is also fantastic; Seth Dusky brings a mischievous charm to Milo and, while it’s a little difficult to sympathise with him at the beginning, he grows into a likeable character. Dan Fogler (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them) voices Gribble, a man who’s been trapped on Mars for 20 years. Because of this, he still has the child-like charm and wonder that is delightful. Both voice actors have great chemistry together that immediately works beautifully.
However, like previously mentioned, ‘Mars Needs Moms’ isn’t without its flaws.
The first aspect that needs to be talked about are the visuals. While the background animation is excellent, the realistic character animation is unsettling, and the mouth movements of each character is even a little out of sync at times. This is something that occurs throughout the film. Instead of going for a realistic approach, ‘Mars Needs Moms’ should’ve followed in the footsteps of 2006’s ‘Monster House’: using motion capture as a reference, then overlaying it with a cartoon-ish structure. The fact that Robert Zemeckis was involved in both films meant that this film could’ve been great. However, that’s not the case unfortunately.
‘Mars Needs Moms’ has pacing issues, especially in the second half of the film; a lot of scenes serve no purpose to the story and should’ve been left on the cutting room floor, while a few others go on for far too long. An example of this is Gribble’s introduction, which seems to drag on; all that that scene needed to do was introduce him and reveal that he had created a Martian translator. But, instead, the film wastes its running time on this one scene, when Gribble serves as a key character in the plot. His story arc is interesting, but should’ve been revealed slowly: he was the previous child who lost his mum to the Martian’s procedure, but never made it back to Earth, thus spending 20 years trapped there.
While ‘Mars Needs Moms’ has its glaring flaws, it’s a fairly decent film. The voice acting and music is fantastic, and the plot is interesting. But it could’ve been a lot better with another edit, and less of the budget going towards the animation.
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