Production Budget: $150 million
Worldwide Gross: $39 million
Ouch. Just ouch. Normally when you think of something that might be one of the biggest box office bombs of ALL TIME (#1 unadjusted for inflation/#5 when inflation is figured) you have to think there is some reason behind it. I mean, I’ve done some of the biggest bombs of all time and without checking I’d say most (if not all) had something go wrong. Heaven’s Gate had a power man dictator of a director, Ishtar was a money pit of a production, Shanghai Surprise/Gigli had bad press with the actor couples, and so on. But then you get these animated movies like Treasure Planet and Mars Needs Moms whose only crime is frankly being mediocre. Well, in the case of Mars it didn’t help opening close to Rango but whatever.
I guess if I had to give my non-expert analysis on why this movie bombed so bad (other than the obvious of not spending 150 million on a kids film) is that, unlike other motion capture movies, this didn’t haveas good a gimmick to draw in the audience. Movies like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol would be reasonably sure bets as those are established stories which could be made into one of those traditional Christmas films that could be played on TV every year. It’s almost guaranteed to make its money back eventually on TV revenue and DVD sales alone. With Mars Needs Moms, it is a rather odd concept that makes you wonder why this NEEDS to be done in motion capture. Why do we need to spend 150 million on an idea which barely limps past 70 minutes (the movie is longer than that but the story essentially ends bythen)? Unlike A Christmas Carol which was a star vehicle for Jim Carey, Mars also doesn’t have any big name draws. Maybe I’ll get responses about how Seth Green deserves more respect but I don’t mean to slam Green. I say that because Green is not in this movie. Seth Green did the motion capture, but later the producers realized Green didn’t really have the voice of a nine year old so they replaced him with an unknown child actor. So given the choice between that and Rango, I chose Rango.
Mars Needs Moms is an odd movie to watch. It’s more of an action movie than a comedy to me. It is like producers needed to justify doing this big money 3D motion capture realism stuff so it is played off like an amusement park ride or something. Every ten minutes we have the characters falling down a long rollercoaster type chute which is designed to make us go Oooooooooh or there is some chase scene through the futuristic city and we are supposed to go Aaaaaaaaaah. I’m sorry but I’m not easily impressed by that stuff now and going into a movie with a goofy title like Mars Needs Moms I was expecting more comedy than action movie.
And the comedy in this movie really isn’t comedy. The filmmakers idea of comedy is having people do goofy characters and tricking people into thinking that is actual humor. For example, the kid runs into this alien who acts like a hippy from the 60’s. My initial thoughts were “Aaaaaaaand?“ And what? What’s the point? Am I just supposed to laugh at the fact she says things like “Groovy“? Dan Fogler plays a guy who acts like he was stuck in the 80’s. Aaaaaand what? Am I supposed to laugh at the fact he simply references Top Gun? Where’s the joke? I mean, take Kung Fu Panda for example. Jack Black plays his usual slacker character but in the body of a fat panda. By itself, probably not all that funny. But there are jokes in the film about him beating people using the power of his massive gut and using his bulk to his advantage. That’s a joke. That’s why it is funny. Dan Fogler doing a Jack Black impression with no real jokes; not funny.
As I mentioned before, even though this movie is technically like 85 minutes, it gasps across the finish like at like 70 minutes. It is a horrible experience to be sitting there thinking “Man, this movie is dragging. We must be in the third act by now.“ only to look at the timer and see you are only 37 minutes into the movie. Because the whole movie feels like filler. The action scenes don’t feel natural, they feel like they are shoved in to artificially inflate the run time and to justify the budget. The comedy isn’t really comedy but a bunch of people mugging for the camera. There is no major character development or story to draw people into the story. The movie is spinning its wheels the whole time and you almost feel bad for the writers as if they all came down with crippling Barton Fink like writers block during the making of this movie.
Mars Needs Moms really isn’t a horrible movie. This is a meh movie. It is a movie that couldn’t justify the expense or the production at all. Mars Needs Moms would be a movie people would forget if not for the fact it is one of the biggest box office bombs of all time. There is nothing which stands out as being very bad, but it all feels like a half assed effort. While this wouldn’t be the worst thing to rent for your kids, I really wouldn’t recommend it to people.