• 54°

‘Mars’ needs more heart

There are a handful of animated films slated for release this spring, many of which don’t appear to be anything other than mediocre family entertainment. As was the case last week with “Rango,” it’s always possible that one of these films can turn out to be a gem. As is the case this week with “Mars Needs Moms,” it’s generally probable that most of these films will turn out to be duds.

Perhaps that’s a bit harsh, but apart from the youngest of children in the audience, “Mars Needs Moms” doesn’t work because it lacks the heart that takes a film from being just a routine animated adventure and turns it into something truly special. That’s a bit surprising given that the film’s theme centers around appreciating one’s mother, a topic that should automatically engender plenty of “heart,” but it plays a bit like lip service. It’s certainly not as moving as it should have been.

The hi-concept story revolves around a young boy who wakes one night to find that extraterrestrials are abducting his mother. It turns out that they need Earth mothers to help raise their Martian kids. The boy stows away on the spaceship and soon finds himself on the Red Planet, where he teams up with another earthling in an attempt to rescue his mom and then find a way back home. It’s a pretty straight-forward action fantasy with a kid acting as the film’s hero. On paper, it certainly looks like a winner.

As I mentioned, there’s enough action and silly space aliens that young children, particularly boys, will be pleased by “Mars Needs Moms.” There aren’t any truly thrilling action set pieces, but there’s enough mayhem and physical humor that the film will make for a nice afternoon out with the family. The fantastical Martian world also lends itself quite nicely to the 3D here, so visually, the film is a nice treat.

Disappointingly, it’s that ineffable quality of “heart,” that leaves the film feeling flat. All the running around in space can’t hide the fact that “Mars Needs Moms” just doesn’t have the emotional connection that should be the film’s strong point.

The film is based on a book by Berkeley Breathed (the creator of “Bloom County”) and while I’ve never read the book, I can imagine a mother having a genuinely touching moment with her young son as she reads him this as a bedtime story. That is a real human connection that is something special. That is, unfortunately, exactly what’s missing from “Mars Needs Moms.”

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” can be found bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.