The Book is Better - Mars Needs Moms
The children's book Mars Needs Moms by Berkley Breathed came out in 2007 and, like most books, it took some time before it gained attention and popularity. In fact when I stumbled upon the hard backed children’s book it was in the bargain bin at a grocery store in 2008. It wasn’t until Disney made a film that the book was in the mainstream and while the film let people to the book that is about the only good thing that it did.
The premise of the story is that on Mars they don’t have mothers. Baby Martians just spring out of the ground. The need mothers though. In the book, it is for cute reasons , that the child being read to can identify with that the martians want a mother (such as being driven to ballet). While in the movie it is so they can program their strict Nanny Robots to take care of the babies for them. The Martians kidnap Milo’s mom in the night and after chasing them down he ends up on his way to Mars to get his mother back.
The book is geared for preschool to kindergarten aged children and is a lighthearted way to tell a story and entertain children while teaching them to appreciate the people in their life who love and care for them. The story is simple, without an abundance of drama and plot twists which would be out of place in a children’s story and make it more difficult for a young child to follow or enjoy.
The illustrations have to be one of the best aspects of this book. They are bright, colorful and engaging. Each picture almost seems as if it were a screen shot from an animated film and the movement and story is conveyed well in pictures alone. The words are only a way to augment the story. Milo, the main character, is adorable and the Martians are fun, bright and friendly looking. And anyone who has children in their life will be able to appreciate the mothers frazzled hair and the bags under her eyes.
The Martians in the book were one of the best parts because even though they were kidnaping Milo’s mother, they weren’t scary or portrayed at “the bad guys.” The Martians just wanted a mother to do all of the things that mothers do like drive to soccer and ballet and kiss boo-boos. Once they realized that they were wrong to take someone elces mother they righted their wrong.
Disney has spent decades building up a brand that people have high expectations for but with Mars Needs Moms they dropped the ball. It’s disappointing when a book as good as this one is made into a movie and it turns out so miserably.
The movie seems to be geared towards a slightly older audience and with that shift came much more plot and an extended story line. That was necessary in order to make a full length movie from a fifteen page book but the way it was done left quite a lot to be desired. Along with making the movie for children in the middle grades they gave the film a bit of a scary aspect, rather than the aliens simply being clueless they are malicious. They transform from wanting someone to pack their lunch to attempted murder.
Because the books illustrations were so good the face that the animation was sub-par was spotlighted. The characters of Milo, his mother and the out of place human that Milo finds on Mars is choppy and awkward while instead of being colorful and friendly the Martians are cold, harsh and evil looking.
The greatest flaw in the film was the over use of propaganda and foray into politics. Children’s movies should be for teaching childhood lessons and entertaining. While yes the film did focus on appreciating your mother, which is a childhood lesson, it went overboard and spent the better part of and hour and a half beating the audience over the head with that fact. On top of that there were strong anti-feminist tones to the entire movie. The female Martians had taken over and through and evil dictatorship the males had been banished into a world of trash and the females lived in a high security, oppressive community. It was almost as if the film was conveying a warning of what could happen if women were given too much power. This part of the story line was unnecessary and inappropriate for a children's film. While too many things made the movie bad taking this out wouldn’t have helped make it better but at least it wouldn’t have been offensive as well.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet don’t bother but if you do have young children in your life this would be a great purchase because the book is far better.