| Nobody does it better than Walt Disney Pictures when it comes to animation for children. They continue their legendary storytelling tradition with this sci-fi adventure comedy.
Simon Wells, the great-grandson of author H.G. Wells ("The Time Machine" and "War of the Worlds") cut his teeth on "Flushed Away," "Madagascar," "Shark Tale" and "Shrek 2" as a storyboard artist. He finally gets his turn at bat as both director and co-screenwriter (along with his wife, Wendy) of this movie based on the children's book written and illustrated by Pulitzer Prize winner Berkeley Breathed. The story was inspired by a moment of disagreement that took place between Breathed's son Milo and his wife.
Nine-year-old Milo (the voice of Seth Green from "Family Guy" and "Robot Chicken") is getting fed up with his nagging mother (Joan Cusack, best known as cowgirl Jessie in "Toy Story 2" and "Toy Story 3"). She makes Milo take out the trash, clean up his messy room and eat his broccoli. Milo hurts her feelings when he says, "My life would be a whole lot better if I didn't have a mom at all."
Before he can tell her he's sorry, she is grabbed by Martians and taken to their spaceship. The red-haired Milo chases after them. His sweatshirt gets caught on the landing gear at takeoff and he becomes a stowaway on the alien craft.
After landing on Mars, Milo escapes a containment area by heeding the advice of an unseen male voice to jump down a chute that resembles a water slide. He lands in an underground trash heap.
Milo meets a 30-something Earthling named Gribble (Dan Fogler from "Kung Fu Panda" and "Horton Hears a Who!"). Tech-savvy electronics wizard Gribble has been on Mars ever since his own mom was abducted many years ago.
Gribble explains the title of the movie. Martian babies are called Hatchlings. They pop out of the ground every 25 years. Mars is a multi-level planet. All the females live on the top and the men below in underground trash caverns. The girl babies are raised by Nanibots that are programmed with the order and discipline skills extracted from the memories of Earth mothers. It is imperative for Milo to rescue his mom before her mind is drained of all its memories. He only has until sunrise. Milo is aided in his quest to save his mom by a rebellious Martian girl named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), who likes to paint colorful graffiti on tall structures to upset the authorities.
Milo's quest to save his mom turns into the adventure of a lifetime. The action is thrilling. Kids will be glued to their seats, mesmerized by the nail-biting suspense. The movie shows lots of scenes from lofty places so those with a fear of heights might want to hide their eyes. Gribble serves as comic relief along the way and generates the biggest laughs.
The animation, special effects and sound effects are top drawer.
Wells gets a big boost from producer Robert Zemeckis by using the special stop-motion technique that Zemeckis pioneered with Tom Hanks in "Polar Express." Performance-capture filmmaking involves placing special sensors on the cast members and capturing their movements on a computer. CGI is used to revise their faces and bodies into an animated format while retaining the movements picked up by the sensors. You might want to stick around for the end credits, where the process is demonstrated.
The movie also benefits from an awesome original soundtrack by Oscar-nominated composer John Powell, who wrote the scores for "How to Train Your Dragon," "Happy Feet" and "Shrek."
The movie is perfectly timed to match a child's attention span at 88 minutes. Due to the sci-fi action, scenes of peril and a scary-looking Martian leader (Mindy Sterling), it may be too intense for children under the age of 8.
This family-friendly entertainment package comes with a lasting side benefit. Children will no longer take their parents for granted and will appreciate them even more after seeing this movie. The new phrase "that crazy love thing" will be tossed around with prideful vigor throughout every household in America.
The movie is being shown in three different formats. Besides the standard 2D on 35 millimeter film stock, you can choose the more expensive route complete with special glasses in either Disney Digital 3D or IMAX 3D. The IMAX 3D version is available exclusively in Johnson County at AMC Town Center 20 and AMC Studio 30.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"