Monthly Archives: August 2011

Rental Corner: “Mars” needs a rewrite while comedy needs a laugh

Mars Needs Moms

Zemeckis Needs a Brain!

Digital movie work has been a controversial step these days. But none has been more taboo than Robert Zemeckis and his venture into Motion Capture. For those who don’t know, motion capture is a technique that has actors wearing special suits designed to record an actor’s performance and then later on transmit their actions into a computer animated being. Robert’s company ImageMovers has utilized this field with many of his films showing the ups and downs of how it can be handled and mishandled. And his company’s latest flick has proved once again with a great technique, comes great responsibility in delivering a good movie with this process.

While he produced, “Mars Needs Moms” shows the absolute chaos of what can come when effect is focused over story and it shows. Directed by Simon Wells, who has rarely done a movie since his first and only live-action picture (The Time Machine), the story follows a kid named Milo (body motions by Seth Green, but voice done by a newcomer kid) who is about as average as the typical kid these days. He has a love for horror movies, but not his broccoli which his mother (Joan Cusack) tries to feed him. Upon refusal, he is sent to bed causing him to greatly exclaim, “I wish I never had a mom.” The minute those words are uttered, I had great distaste for such a character and asked if this truly is our main protagonist then why let him seem like an antagonist with such actions.

But all that changes when Milo’s mother is stolen to Mars and he stows away on the ship that goes straight to the red planet’s base, where half of it looks like a rejected set from Tron Legacy and an unused junk area  from Wall-E placed underneath it. To make matters ever more strange, the female creatures are the more dominant and live on the surface while the males are rejected into the massive garbage pile placed under the base. A strange theme of the “battle of the sexes” which I feel is too mature for a family feature. Speaking of maturity, for those who saw this movie in theaters, did anyone notice a lot of the camera angles on these aliens were more interested in their butts?

Even the Martians themselves are uninteresting as where they live. They appear to be too human like and not enough alien in them. I can understand how they are going for a kid-friendly approach in the design, but the aliens in Explorers were more creative and unique in comparison. But behind that colorful look is something diabolical. The leader of the Martians wants to kidnap mothers so they can extract a gene within them for programming these robots they have. The robots themselves are used to take care of their children and the only way to find such a mother is if the perfect pick has total obedience and control. However, the process alone causes the chosen victim to evaporate into thin air. This chosen action on the behalf of the Martians to me is stupid and feels like a waste. Why go through all this trouble to program robots when you can program the mothers? That thought alone would be more interesting and make a more clever idea as opposed to a choice that forces a sad emotion.

As for the other characters, I could honestly care less about discussing. There is another human on the planet named Gribble that tries to help the kid out, but the trust factor is played around too much to the point we mistaken him for a villan, an alien that knows hippie lingo thanks to a fictional sitcom that reeks of the 1960s, and an array of side characters that feel one-note and undeveloped. Even a hinted love interest between Gribble and the hippie Martian that doesn’t lighten the heavy and dark load “Mars” gives us. It’s an unsettling and unimpressive feature that feels like nightmare fuel for kids. Compared to the previous work Simon Wells did, I feel more comfortable to recommend titles like Balto, The Prince of Egypt, or even We’re Back which are not Disney masterpieces, but have a special charm that makes them enjoyable. “Mars Needs Moms” on the other hand will be noted as the biggest flop in motion capture history and only a rental for curious viewers.

Super Troopers

Such broken humor

With that said, there was so much negativity with the previous look that I had to find something funny to wash out the bad taste. Instead, that taste got bitter with “Broken Lizard’s Super Toopers.” Now, I’m one for comedy groups like Monty Python and the Mighty Boosh, but my introduction to Broken Lizard wasn’t as good. I guess what killed it was how I wait for years to finally see this movie, but even when I did, my interest wasn’t all there. Even when I was young I had no intention. The trailers just made it feel like another silly comedy that was trying to get laughs, considering it was out in a time when gross-out funnies were the big fad. But this was just a bore to sit through.

The premise is basic; a batch of cops try to mess around and do stupid things while trying to bust a drug run. This would be a good idea if “Troopers” didn’t feel like a string of sketches as opposed to have a structure to them. For example, “Life of Brain” had a batch of sketches but it was all woven with a plot that carried it through. The basic pattern in “Super Troopers” is have a scene and then have something related to the plot which has little interaction with these characters. If the purpose was to be a funny film with no story, then why go the route “Clerks” did. Instead, we get unfunny joke after unfunny joke that piles on and tries to out due each other, which just doesn’t work for my taste. And when you have a running gag involving a tattoo of a monkey rubbing his own banana (No, the other banana), you tell its trying to get a laugh and yet in the end you’re sitting there asking what they think is funny. At the end of the day, we are left with something that looks like a pilot for a possible Comedy Central series. Again, I’m not familiar with the “Broken Lizard” gang, but I think my first foray into their strange and sick humor begins and ends here.

Me, Myself & Irene

Me, Myself 7 the Farelleys

With that said, I decided to try the Farrelly Brothers, whose films have kept me laughing no matter how revolting or oddball they are. This time, I was new to “Me, Myself and Irene,” a romance tale about a cop named Charlie (Jim Carey) that has led a really rough time that causes him to snap one day into an alter-ego with a wicked, mean-spirited personality named Hank. While well aware of this matter, things get complex when he has to transport a woman on the lam and struggles to keep his ego under control. While a tad better than “Super Troopers” in concept and characters, the only problem is the level of humor that is played up. At times the dialogue can be witty and other times the imagery is not terrible, but just cruel.

Unlike their past work. “Irene” is light but has a dark level of humor that outdoes “The Cable Guy.” The psychological elements are rather mature for a “happy-go-lucky” comedy and even scenes of animal cruelty are played up very harsh. Such that can’t be described here, but one involves a very grim action towards a cow and a certain place where a chicken’s head can never be placed. Overall, while not the worse of the Farrelly brothers, it’s not as memorable as “Dumb and Dumber” and makes the cruel and gross moments of “There’s Something About Mary” seem tame. Best to give it a safe rent, but at least it had me chuckle.