Milo boards the spacecraft headed to Mars, where he learns that his mother's memory will soon be wiped clean and she will be put to work. Mars needs moms, you see, because its inhabitants aren’t capable of raising children. Instead of flesh-and-blood parents, the Martian children are reared by programmed drones which "learn" their parenting skills from human mothers. It's a clever idea, but one that MNM renders foggy and underdeveloped. Animated films aren't always the best at maintaining coherent plots or ideas, but the lapse here is glaring. This is a Disney product, after all, and the house that Mickey built usually aims higher.
Mars Needs Moms has the mother-son dynamic as its backbone, but the film lacks the subtleties to be a true tear-jerker. But the bond between mother and child is a powerful one nonetheless, and MNM has moments that make us consider whether we treated our mothers like they deserve to be treated.
After recent Disney tear-inducers like Wall-E, Toy Story 3 and Winnie the Pooh, the bar is set high. MNM is a sweet and heart-warming story with an invaluable lesson, but it simply can’t compare to the originality of a Wall-E, the beloved characters of a Winnie the Pooh or Toy Story 3’s classic, universally appealing everything. Instead, MNM is a pleasant 88 minutes of viewing that will quickly be forgotten by most viewers — especially those over 10 years of age.
All that said, if you were looking to compile a checklist of the ideal mix of special features for an animated film’s Blu-Ray release, this would be the template. The best of the Blu-ray features include an option to view the movie with a split screen of the live action unfolding on set, and a peek inside Green’s process of acting for the motion-capture equipment.motion-capture animation, giving more depth and realism to the picture, and director Simon Wells included an abundance of background on the technique. As if voice acting wasn’t challenging enough, the use of motion-capture puts a new spin on the performance. This technique of motion-capture animation has been utilized in video games (especially the sports genre), but it’s still somewhat new territory for the movie world. As seen in the special features, Green, Fogler, Cusack and the various cast members who play aliens had to not only say their lines, but actually had to go through the motions of their respective characters’ actions. Green in particular is brilliant, not only voicing a young boy accurately, but also capturing Milo through movements and mannerisms.
Deleted scenes usually add little to the Blu-ray experience, but there’s more to MNM's excised moments than 20 minutes of arbitrary, unused film. Wells introduces each scene, then explains why it got the axe. By putting the scene and the decision to cut it into context, we understand the decision-making of the filmmakers more so than with other releases. Truth be told, some of the scenes weren’t half-bad, either.
Mars Needs Moms has even more to offer with the special features, solidifying the notion that if you must purchase this movie for the kids to watch in the backseat on a long car ride, it’s worth dolling out extra cash to get the Blu-Ray (which has a standard DVD version included, for all the conventional folks out there who own the already-obsolete DVD players). It's just too bad that Mars Needs Moms the film isn't as good as its bonus content …