"Mars Needs Moms" relates the adventures of Milo, a boy who seeks to rescue his kidnapped mother from Martians . Based on a children's book by the famous comic strip author Berkeley Breathed, this animated film, while uneven in certain respects, excels in its depiction of sacrificial family love. Milo is truly heroic in his single-minded determination to free his mother despite insurmountable odds and even a powerful temptation to give up. I also found the Martian settings to be artistically imaginative, fascinating, and impressive.
The film's portrayal of the relationship between an American mother and her son was not only realistic but profoundly moving. Young Milo attempts to deceive his mother. Like all good mothers, she catches him out and holds him accountable. Like all disobedient children (which covers most of the human race at one time or another), Milo angrily lashes out at her. In a moment that rings true with my own childhood and with our own children on occasion, Milo's mother is reduced to tears by her son's cruel words. Milo tries to go to sleep but the guilt over his response to his mother troubles him. He gets up to apologize, only to discover that he is, in one sense, too late. His mother has disappeared. In another sense, he arrives in the nick of time, just able to follow after the strange beings who have kidnapped his mother. Love for his mother stoked by his remorse for his meanness fuel an unquenchable determination in Milo to rescue her. Within a fast-paced, wildly fantastic and carelessly implausible animated movie, this true-to-life family relationship comes as somewhat of a surprise. But the film succeeds brilliantly because the filmmakers remain true throughout to the theme of love between a mother and son.
Milo's mother has been kidnapped by a radical feminist Martian society that has all but destroyed maternal love in its elevation of power and technological progress. The Martians abandon their males at their planetary dump and leave their females to be raised by robot nursemaids. But little ones, even in a twisted society, need more than a robot to be cared for properly. Presumably unable and/or unwilling to provide quality maternal nature themselves, the Martian supervisors spy out likely outstanding mothers on planet Earth and kidnap the best candidates in an evil plan to enrich the maternal behavior of the robots.
In his quest, Milo meets Gribble, a fellow human stranded on Mars with his own tragic story and Ki, the Martian who has rebelled against the oppressive Martian society. The events that bring Milo and his new friends to the film's final climax uncover Mars' own dark secrets about motherhood and the family.
It is unfortunate that "Mars Needs Moms" was a dismal flop at the box office. The film's odd mix of a relatively serious theme in a wacky action-adventure animation vehicle may have hurt its reach. Some may have been repelled by its central theme of the importance of motherhood and the natural family. Surveys at a leading film website indicate that this film splits its audience, with people either loving or hating "Mars Needs Moms," with relatively few in between. Such a divergence indicates that people's fundamental views on life dictated their response to the film, not less weighty matters such as the animation style, humor, music, or plot devices.
It is my hope that the mostly brilliant folks at Disney made a few marketing errors and missed their target audience. If you believe that the natural human family is a fundamental, even divinely ordained social unit with motherhood being one of its key components, please give this film and the dvd a chance. You may find yourself not only entertained, but surprisingly moved.