MARS NEEDS MOMS Who said animation should look real? Robert Zemeckis, for one, though as evidenced by Disney's recent closing of his ImageMovers Digital studio, he increasingly appears to be alone in that sentiment. Mars Needs Moms stands as the potentially final Zemeckis-produced motion-capture effort, and, like The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol before it, its characters boast the waxy complexions, unreal movements and dead eyes of mannequins come to surreal, energetic life. The tale of a boy (Seth Green) who ventures to the red planet to save his mom (Joan Cusack) from having her “discipline” skills extracted by Martians and then implanted into nanny robots, Simon Wells' story (based on a children's book by Berkeley Breathed) hinges on a fundamental illogicality, since the chief differentiating characteristic between humans and machines isn't discipline but compassion. The narrative's underlying suggestion that well-behaved kids are apt to lose their exceptional mothers to covetous outside forces remains dis-quieting. In its roller-coaster centerpieces, this CG adventure gains a small measure of visual panache, hurtling about with an abandon otherwise lacking in its race-against-time saga. Yet with its aesthetics heavily and unimaginatively indebted to the Tron and Star Wars series, the film proves to be the equivalent of sci-fi-cinema training wheels. (Nick Schager) (Citywide)

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