After years of animators riding the post-Pixar renaissance and filmgoers feasting on the fruits of their labor, we may have finally hit a collective moment of big-screen-toon fatigue. The field is so crowded now that it simply might not be possible to out-wow last week's big 3-D pop-culture-quoting animated film, or the one from the week before that, or the month before that. Not that these movies aren't trying their damnedest to impress your eyeballs, even if---like this busy adaptation of Berkeley Breathed's children's book---they end up sacrificing a few things like savviness or storytelling in the process.
You certainly can't fault this Disney movie---about a boy (Green) who travels to the Red Planet to rescue his mom (Cusack) from maternally concerned aliens---for its visuals: The interiors of the Martian ship look like an iPod turned inside out. Several vertiginous plunges down an elevator shaft and into a mammoth flaming junkyard are vivid enough to make you lose your Happy Meal. The lair of a perpetually adolescent tech-geek (Fogler) is a Casa Batll of rusty bric-a-brac; don't even get us started on the hat-tips to Star Wars, Spider-Man and Halo that will have 12-year-old boys drooling.
But after the novelty of these backgrounds and comin'-at-ya bits wears off, Mars Needs Moms has to rely on Fogler's obnoxious Jack Black Jr. shtick, a weak subplot involving a '60s-obsessed Martian graffiti artist (Harnois) and rote video-game-y action sequences to carry it along---and that simply won't cut it. You can credit Disney for keeping the book's harrowing climax intact, in which the story's abandonment issues finally come to a head, but other than that, there's little to distinguish this from every other sci-fi-flavored kid flick of the last five years.
Watch the trailer