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Movie Review: Mars Needs Moms

March 11, 2011

I don’t even know where to start with this review except that I have rarely been so upset while watching a movie. I wish I could say that there were no women involved in the making of it, but obviously there were, behind the scenes as well in front, including my beloved Joan Cusak.

Nevertheless, I’m going to place the blame for this one square at the feet of Producer Robert Zemeckis and writer/director Simon Wells. Let’s leave Berkeley Breathed (famous for the Bloom County cartoons in the 1980s), whose book of the same title was the nominal basis of this movie, out of it, as from what I can tell, the objectionable parts were superimposed onto his original story.

So by now you’re probably wondering what I’m blathering on about. Young Milo is having a typically bratty 9-year-old evening and, in a moment of anger, blurts out a hateful sentiment to his mother (Joan Cusak) that he doesn’t really mean. In the middle of the night he wakes up to apologize, just in time to see her abducted by a spaceship. Running out to save her, he gets accidentally stowed aboard himself.

The ship’s destination is the planet Mars, which, despite that other book’s title (Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus) is controlled and populated entirely by females. If you can imagine such a terrible thing. Because, of course, a planet controlled by women is a grim, colorless police state where the very word “love” is unknown, let alone its meaning.

The storm troopers of Mars are young nubile women with the kind of exaggerated waist-hip ratio the corsets and bustles of Victorian times were attempting to suggest. They are ruled over by withered old crones, the oldest and most hideous of whom is  The Supervisor (Mindy Sterling, best known as Frau Farbissina, Dr. Evil’s associate in the Austin Powers series).

I’m going to skip the rest of the infuriating plot summary, because, believe me, it’s not worth your time. While rampant and unabashed misogyny accounts for 80% of this film’s offenses, it’s not alone. There’s also jaw-dropping racism, in the form of a dread-locked, war-painted, “stupid” (the movie’s label) tribe that lives amidst trash heaps underground. These apelike creatures are the males of the planet, banished from the real world above. But simpleminded as they are (they grunt for communication and can understand only pantomime), they are happy and friendly, and boy, can they dance! It’s a racial cariacature that makes Jar Jar Binks look positively enlightened by comparison.

Anyway, this is all just the start. It gets worse from there, never for a minute redeeming itself. But I’ll mention that Dan Fogler gives an energetic performance, although his character and his character’s storyline is inappropriate for any child under 10 or 12 to see. My 6 year old was traumatized and my 4 year old said it was far too scary—not because of any violence or suspense, but because of the idea of losing one’s mother. I totally agree, and feel horrible that my children saw a single minute of this movie.


6 Responses to “ Movie Review: Mars Needs Moms ”

  1. Summer on March 11, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I loved the movie and so did my 4, 7, and 12 year old and their huge group of friends. Like everything in life, it’s all perspective and how you chose to look at things. Mars Needs Mom was simply fun for us.

  2. Berkeley Breathed on March 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Whew. I’m thrilled you DID leave me out of it. I bruise easily.

    –Berkeley Breathed

  3. JS of Boston, MA on March 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I saw this movie yesterday with a group of about 30 students (ages 11-12) and 5 other teachers. While the kids loved this movie, (and anything that resembles a cartoon) the adults were horrified and a bit traumatized afterwards.

    Among the troubling depictions:

    * dread-locked Martians that resemble Jamaicans at some point, Rastafarians at another point, and members of an African Tribe at another point

    * no waist-wide hipped female Martians who are cold, unforgiving, and interested in order only

    *segregating the baby Martians from birth (or sprouting), and determining who would have access to power and who would dwell beneath those with power, living off of their leavings (trash)— based off of their physical appearance

    *white male hero falls in love with the exotic indigenous female

    *Milo & Gribble roll around in the trash, fall into a mud puddle, then land in a pile of dust and get up without any trash, mud, or dust on them but Gribble has a perfect Afro, complete with full sideburns … so basically if one wants to obtain an Afro, simply roll around in the trash, dirt, and mud and voilà!

    * After missing his absent father (who is away on business) and the whole adventure in Mars (complete with a near death experience), Milo returns home and upon seeing his father, they exchange a buddy handshake but never a hug. After such a big deal is made about hugging (while in Mars), Milo and his father do not hug. — what does this say about the acceptability of male-male, father-son interactions?

    * The Supervisor in Mars seems to be the oldest of all the characters in the movie and Milo retorts to her, “Have you ever heard of Botox?!” — what does this say about natural aging and age and beauty?

    * The Supervisor’s language is very different from the language of the other Martians and definitely resembles that of an indeterminable Asian country

    * Milo’s most articulate moment in the movie is a zombie reference where he tells his mother, “Zombies are an abomination and I am committed to their annihilation.” —–later in the movie, upon first seeing the male African-like aliens, Milo screams and refers to them as “Zombies!” —- so is someone committed to THEIR annihilation? Committed to the annihilation of the playful, irresponsible, trash dwellers who can’t learn?— interesting.

    * the 70s & 80s references were totally irrelevant to those students and they were only additional evidence that “Mars Needs Moms” is not a kids movie at all. It is an intentional affront to adults, boasting movie maker’s ability to infiltrate the psyche of our young impressionable children. —-The part of the movie that got the most outrageous and vocal reaction from the 12 year olds was when Gribble was visibly interested in and attracted to the exotic-non-human- yet charismatic indigenous female.

    There were many more questionable and extremely uncomfortable scenes within this “kids” movie that seemed to reveal and rely on prejudices and stereotypes of race, age, nationality, culture, gender, intellect and the family.

    My group and I went to the movies in hopes of enjoying some light-hearted 3D fun on a Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, we unexpectedly left confused, disturbed, and eager for answers.

    * The tribal-like dance after the movie ended with all of the smiling white actors performing in synchronized bliss to the tribal music seemed to reek of cultural appropriation.

    I can’t help but to question the intentions and target audience of the producer. Disappointing Indeed.

  4. NN of Seattle on March 13, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Thank you for your review. I WISH I would have seen it before I took my family.

  5. rp421 on March 16, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Breathed’s original book is supposed to be wonderful and I believe that. What boggles my mind is how Hollywood continues to trash, er “improve” source material.
    Motion capture is hideous BTW and that child’s eyes are too far apart.

  6. Kat on March 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    I wondered after seeing this film, as a female, it didn’t strike me as sexist, but actually more racist.

    I don’t know if I’m the only one that got this impression, but with the asian characteristics, the ‘throwing children into the trash’ (all of one gender) – it made me thing of the caricature of the Chinese abandoning/killing baby girls. It made me wonder if this was a hidden comment by the screen writers, the ‘interpretation’ of the book (which was not this way) – of an overly productive, disciplined society and the thought of one gender as worthless and a waste of effort due to their natural characteristics. Seemed obvious and offensive to me. I didn’t even notice the males were dread-locked etc or their lips. I interpreted their lack of knowledge to be from running wild without education actually. The alien-human relationship, well that didn’t bother me or my children – to them the outside is just a bag of skin, what counts is inside – alien or not :)