The average rating for this movie by professional film critics is about 3.0 out of 5 stars. That average is realistic. I would probably give it 6.5 out of 10 if I could, but I didn't feel it was as bad as movies I've given 6 out of 10 stars, so I gave it a 7 out of 10.
The movie uses motion-capture computer animation to apply more realistic textures and movements to its characters, following movies like A Christmas Carol (which wasn't as good), Beowulf (which was much better), and The Polar Express (also much better).
Mars Needs Moms features a plot that wasn't demographically targeted correctly. It features a boy who needs to rescue his mother from awkwardly humanoid-looking Martians, but boys that age are working very hard to separate themselves from needing their mothers. It is a very natural consequence of a male's life. So while the movie might appeal to mothers, I'm not sure it will appeal to boys.
The next problem, which exacerbates the previous one, is its timing. The studio made a big, big mistake trying to release it at the same time as Battle: Los Angeles, and only a week after Rango. Parents already took their kids to Rango the weekend before, and the dads really wanted to see Battle: Los Angeles (especially after being sorely disappointed with the similarly themed Skyline last Fall).
A lot of movies in January through March have been juggled around recently, causing all sorts of problems. Many movies were yanked from their original release dates and moved out later in the year. But Mars Needs Moms should have been released in early January. It would have fared a lot better. As it is, the movie has been a complete disaster at the Box Office. I fault Disney for the poor release strategy (they were only the distributor, not the actual producer of the movie), and Simon Wells for the rest.
There is also the point that a lot of viewers were troubled by the Martians themselves. I think Simon Wells could have had his animators design them a little more intelligently. They seemed awkward to me -- they were humanoid, but slightly differenced to a degree that some people found disagreeable: legs too far apart, butts too big, and legs like they were inflated with air. Mr. Wells also made the mistake of giving the male Martians dreadlocks-like hair, which has accidentally incited a lot of racist remarks, although racial nods was not intended. (People really need to stop being oversensitive. Grow some skin, please!)
There is an army of people flaming the movie, however, and the computer animation is at the core of their argument, which is very curious. One critic said, "Mars Needs Moms stands as the potentially final Zemeckis-produced motion-capture effort, and, like The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol before it, its characters boast the waxy complexions, unreal movements, and dead eyes of mannequins..." (Nick Schager, The Village Voice)
What the...? I'm confused here. What standard is this critic holding computer animated features to? I don't recall any waxy complexions or unreal movements or dead eyes of mannequins in any of these movies, or at least nothing that distracted me from the otherwise near photo-realistic computer animation that has only been around a few years. While they fall short of the realism of characters inserted into live action movies such as Peter Jackson's King Kong and Gollum, or George Lucas's Yoda in Star Wars episodes II & III, and certainly not the characters in Avatar, it didn't strike me as being a requirement in an animated feature to be THAT photo-realistic. Nobody complained about Shrek's movements being unrealistic or his eyes being dead as a mannequins, but clearly Shrek isn't being held to the same animation standard. What gives?
While I'm not going to defend Mars Needs Moms on every point, I don't understand the beating its taking from reviewers here at IMDb. It's a fairly average film from a director who isn't very good to begin with, with plotting that could have been better and could have been worse, and some character design that could have been more intelligent. But unfortunately there seems to be a subculture out there (probably made up of mostly teens, and maybe even competing film marketers and computer animation folk -- perhaps some Rango promoters attempting to keep its returns high in the second week) who are throwing one stars around IMDb with malignant glee. To give 1 out of 10 stars to this movie is dishonest, and an abuse of having a rating system in the first place. There were 404 people who gave A Bug's Life "1 star" for example, and 3,284 who gave Shrek "1 star." And so forth. Movies need to be rated with some perspective on similar movies.
Mars Needs Moms has some redeeming values. Not nearly as witty as Tangled or Shrek, but easier to understand and more enjoyable than Rango, which seemed to bore my two boys (4 and 7) whereas Mars Needs Moms entertained them. In all fairness, Rango was intended for slightly older children than mine, but I'm a pretty old child myself, with a lot more filmmaking, movie-going, and storytelling experience than the average IMDb reviewer, and I didn't find Rango nearly as brilliant as Johnny Depp's ground-worshipers claim.
My advice to you, if you haven't seen Mars Needs Moms, is ask your kid if he or she is interested, and if so, take them. Forget about what you hear about it on IMDb boards, it's likely tainted.
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