Mars Needs Moms

by Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider

EXPECTATIONS: Robert Zemeckis, have you gone insane? No, seriously, I want to know. You're like a kid with a new toy who just won't stop playing with it. For six years. You're approaching George Lucas levels of "HEY, SHINY COMPUTER MAKE BETTER MOVIE" madness. No, you know what? You're worse than Lucas, because you were a better director than he was before you went crazy. No one likes your creepy-ass uncanny valley mo-cap CGI madness. And I really don't need to see a hyper-realistic computer version of Seth Green's baby-face. Please, just stop. (Yes, I realize Zemeckis didn't direct this, he just produced it. Who cares?)

REALITY: Okay folks, this one's a doozy. This is a hell of a thing I have to cover, so let's get the small stuff out of the way before I go into the heavy-hitting.

Mars Needs Moms is adapted from a children's book by Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed, much in the same way that my fecal matter is adapted from the food I eat. It's shot in the same mo-cap semi-computer-animated style as Zemeckis' past few films, The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol. If you were creeped-out and put off by the grinning face of zombie Tom Hanks, you can basically imagine how you're going to feel when you see that same dead-eyed effect applied to the human mop, Dan Fogler. I suppose director Simon Wells deserves some credit for getting the motion-cap dots to stay on that man's face.

You can just tell by looking at them how much those Martians need a stable home life.

The film tells the story of Milo, played by the nightmarish combination of Seth Green's face and some other kid's voice. Milo is a pretty typical kid. He doesn't like to do chores or eat broccoli. Apparently Mars is such a simplistic place that by forcing her son to do these things, Milo's Mom (Joan Cusack) is the perfect human to use as programming for the Nanny-bots which raise the children of Mars. Read that sentence again. Go ahead. Yeah, that leap in logic makes as much sense in the film as it does in this paragraph. The Martians steal Milo's mom in the middle of the night, and Milo stows away aboard the spaceship to get her back. On the way he befriends an inventor named Gribble (Dan Fogler) who lives in a garbage heap on Mars. (Gribble then deliberately sets him up to be arrested by Martian security in a plot point that is never addressed again.) Milo also meets a completely useless character, a rebel alien named Ke (Elisabeth Harnois).

Ke is a Martian who apparently decided to stand up against the oppressive dictatorship of her planet (more on that later) after watching an episode of That '70s Show. Ke wanders around spray-painting bright colors like an alien Banksy, and talking like a totally rad, groovy chick. As far as annoying aliens go, Ke squeaks past Jar Jar Binks by virtue of the fact that she's marginally less offensive. In fact, because Gribble has been on Mars since the '80s, and because nobody who worked on this movie has seen an actual kid for about fifteen years, our main characters make up three decades worth of annoying stereotypes. I expected Milo to tell the aliens to Eat His Shorts at any minute.

The plot of Mars Needs Moms is completely nonsensical, and that's even by the insanely low standards of a movie about a kid saving his mom from Martians. There is very little development in any of the characters, and Milo's journey spans from "takes the garbage out while complaining" all the way to "takes the garbage out without complaining." Entire plot lines are dropped at random, and the bizarre animation creates such a disconnect from the audience that it's really somewhat unnerving to see the characters portraying emotion. Those are the small issues. Here's the big issue: Mars Needs Moms is an incredibly anti-gay film. That's not a joke. Seriously. Let me explain...

My God, that's creepy. That poor cat must be terrified.The reason Mars actually needs moms is that all the female martians are busy being leaders, soldiers and politicians. Because of this, they are apparently terrible mothers, because no woman can be in a position of power and possess maternal instincts. (There's a nanny-bot and some memory-erasing/murder of humans involved, but it's weird and boring and overall basically unimportant.) The men are no help, because they all live in a huddle together painting themselves in bright flamboyant colors and dancing and hugging all the time. (Seriously.) The men all live together because the women are led by an old angry lady who believes that women are stronger, and we should do away with all men. Then the movie goes out of its way to show that before Butchy McLes-alien took over, all children were raised by a man and a woman. Just like the Martian bible says it should be! The whole thing plays out like a particularly preachy episode of Futurama, minus any of the self-awareness. I kept thinking that I was reading too much into the film (impossible), but when Ke tells the Martians that they were meant to be raised by two parents, because that's the only way to feel love, I was convinced. And angered.

It's not often in this line of work that I get to write pieces that really matter, so I want to make the most of this. Mars Needs Moms isn't just offensive to gays, it's offensive to anyone who has a non-structuralist family. The overall message of the film is "Unless you're raised by one Mom AND one Dad, then you're wrong." Single parent? Wrong. Living with other relatives? Wrong. The film even makes sure we know that Milo has a Dad, though he serves no purpose other than letting us know Milo is in a "proper family." Hell, there's even an inter-species romance between Gribble and Ke, because apparently that's okay, as long as it's not gay.

Too often we tell ourselves that if a movie is made for kids, we shouldn't analyze it too hard, and that is insane. We should take an ever closer look at films designed to entertain our children. Children are impressionable, and what they see in their programming leaves a mark on their development, whether we want to admit it or not. If you want to show your children that love -- like bravery and every other emotion -- takes all forms, take them to see Rango again. At least that won't make them look at their friends' families (or their own) and think they're inherently flawed. However, if you can tell me that you want to send the message to your children that there's only one way a kid can be loved, then by all means take them to see Mars Needs Moms, and remind me not to let my future offspring play with yours.

Side note: I was wondering going in if Mars Needs Moms was going to have any reference to Elton John's "Rocket Man." I now understand why there isn't.

Bizarre Animation1/10
Plot Comprehension0/10
Offensiveness0/10
Dan Fogler's Continuing Jack Black Impression1/10
Mars Ain't the Kind of PlaceTo Raise Your Kids
Overall2/50

MINORITY REPORT: Hollywood once again re-enforces the rich, white patriarchy because deep down they are afraid that if they truly made a difference to the world through their art, there wouldn't be any more room for them in it. - Ian "ProfessorClumsy" Maddison

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