Mars Needs Moms (PG)
Disney Movies; Disney Wiki; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Disney+; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu; YouTube
This came out in 2011, but I didn't see it until 2015; I watched it with my mom, on Mother's Day. (She liked it more than I did, but I definitely did like it.) It's one of those motion-capture CGI movies that people sometimes don't like because of the "uncanny valley" effect, but I never really felt that about it at all. Oh, and it was released in 3D, but I've only seen it in 2D, which is enough for me. It was still a reasonably good-looking movie, I thought. (And more like normal CGI than motion-capture.) It was also a major bomb at the box office, as well as critically. Wikipedia says the consensus was that "it suffers from a lack of imagination and heart," and I don't really agree with that. I mean, it doesn't have as much imagination or heart as most animated movies I watch, but I certainly wouldn't call it lacking in those areas. I will say that it took awhile for it to really start getting interesting for me, but once it finally did, I enjoyed it reasonably well.
Anyway, there's this kid named Milo, who is incredibly annoyed by the very simple demands his mom (Joan Cusack) makes. Seriously, it's basically just "take out the trash" and "eat your vegetables," and that's enough to make him feel like she's some kind of monster. So he says something really heartless to her when she sends him to bed... but then he ends up feeling bad about it. So after awhile he goes to apologize, but discovers that she's been taken away by... something mysterious. He follows and finds she's been taken aboard a spaceship, and he tries to get her back. But instead, he ends up getting caught by the retracting landing gear, and unwittingly stows away for the return trip to Mars. Once there, he meets a weird guy named Gribble, a sort of man-child who's been living on Mars since the same thing happened to him when he was a kid that just happened to Milo. (He definitely seems like his last contact with Earth culture was in the 1980s.) So... that accounts for his immaturity, though oddly enough, he seems to be a genius at inventing things from materials scavenged in the Martians' garbage dump (where he lives), as well as hacking into Martian computers. Gribble wants Milo to stay with him, so that he'll have a real companion. (Until now his only companions have been a little robot thing he'd invented called Two-Cat, and a wild Martian he called Wingnut, neither of whom speak in any sort of intelligible language.) However, Milo just wants to find his mom and rescue her, so they can go back to Earth.
Gribble explains some things to Milo about what's going on. Apparently, every 25 years Martian hatchlings just... hatch out of the ground. The female hatchlings are raised by "nanny-bots," which are programmed with the memories of a single Earth mother whom the Martians had abducted. The nanny-bots last just one generation, then a new batch have to be programmed with the memories of another abducted mom. And the process kills the mother. Learning about this, Milo becomes even more determined to rescue his mom before her memories can be extracted, which is going to happen in less than 7 hours. Oh, and um... btw, male hatchlings are just dumped in... the dump. So they're just raised by a bunch of wild male Martians, which is why only the females have things like language, civilization, and order. (I really don't understand where the hatchlings come from, because as far as I know there is zero interaction between males and females... but perhaps this is a question best left unanswered. Or at least un-thought-about.)
Anyway, Gribble gives Milo a headset that will allow him to understand (female) Martian language, as well as keep in contact with each other while Milo goes off on his own to rescue his mom. But before that can happen, the Martians capture Gribble, so Milo has no guidance at all. But then he meets a Martian named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), who is secretly a tagger, and also speaks English. She was influenced by an Earth transmission from the 1960s, so basically she's a hippie, who rebels against the strict rule of the head Martian (known only as the Supervisor). But, like I said, it's secret. Not, like, an open rebellion, just the graffiti she paints in her spare time, or whatever. But now she starts helping Milo. And they eventually rescue Gribble, before continuing on the mission to rescue Milo's mom. Along the way, they make a discovery about some Martian history which the Supervisor has kept secret from all the other Martians. Also, Gribble develops a crush on Ki. (Incidentally, I'm not really sure if the transmission Ki had seen was actually... in the 60s, which would make her about 20 years older than Gribble, or if it's something she didn't see until much more recently. Either way, I find it interesting that both of them have personalities that are so firmly rooted in different specific decades of the past.)
And that's all I want to reveal, but things do get really dramatic at one point. Still, the story has a pretty good ending, on a number of fronts. The movie isn't as funny or clever or cool as one might hope, but it's not bad. And the idea that it doesn't have heart is just absurd. It may not be loaded with heart, but the few emotional moments it does have really pack a punch.