There's animation and then there's the animation based on motion capturing, which had seen the likes of films such as The Polar Express and the recent A Christmas Carol. For personal reasons I don't quite dig this particular brand of art, straddling neither here nor there with its desire to be photo realistic, yet tinged with that hint of exaggerated elements that can only be made through the animated medium rather than live action. Then again if the artwork didn't impress, the story did for a bit, with a surprisingly strong emotional core attached to it that many can identify with, especially if we had been mean to our own moms before.
Mars needs moms, only because the Martians themselves are so bad at parenting and want to outsource this function, given a shift in idealogy no thanks to a mean matriarch at the helm of their society, buried deep beneath the surface such that our Pathfinder is rather useless at detecting lifeforms. As Mars doesn't have the necessary support environment, Moms get kidnapped from Earth, sent back to Mars, have their parenting DNA sucked out of their beings, implanted into Nannybots, before being obliterated in the process which involves the sun - yes Martians are environmental friendly and use renewable solar energy.
The next mom on the Martian's target is Milo's mom (Joan Cusack), who impressed through their deep space surveillance camera with her ability to keep the naughty Milo (Seth Green) under control from taking out the trash to sending him to his room for not eating his veggies. Some hurtful exchange of words from son to mother, before he discovers the Martian's ploy and made himself a stowaway on a spaceship back to Mars, where he turns from prisoner to rescuer with the help of a perpertually high Gribble (Dan Fogler), who teaches him a thing or two about survival on the red planet, wanting Max to become his BFF if not for the latter's insistence to save his mom.
So begins a quick adventure of about an hour with an audacious rescue mission to exploit its 3D-ness (watching this on 2D, there weren't many sequences designed to do that, really), also with the help of convenient online, realtime translator sets the humans use to communicate with their Martian helper in Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), a somewhat non-conformist female Martian being influenced by the Flower Power propaganda the Martians have while researching Earth, graffiti painting the dull look of Mars with psychedelic colours. An unnecessary subplot occurs with the romantic dalliances between Martian and Man (really, eww), as well as some commentary about nature versus nurture with the male martians not being cared for by Moms and becoming more like Apes when left to their own devices when forced away from civilizations - there are two layers here, one being the females ruling the world, with the male species through the lack of nurturing going back to their primal selves.
Still, what made this film bearable for the most parts is the emotional core of the story stemming from Milo's regret in saying what could possibly be the meanest comment anyone can make toward their moms, which intensified his sense of urgency and regret as he races against the clock to save his her. You'll be hard pressed not to tear up (oh the manipulation, Disney), though the insult to intelligence if you're older than 5 years come from the final act, involving the lack of breathable air which I thought on one hand was brave of Disney to attempt something a little bit more shocking as is, but on the other pulled its punches with what was very implausible, that robbed it of its credibility.
The only aspect which impressed was the sheer amount of work going on behind the motion capture, where you can see plenty of behind the scenes effort when the end credits were rolling, where the actors are strapped to multiple sensors of all kinds placed on their bodies while they act out their scenes made up of sparse looking, makeshift sets that double up for the real thing. Some nice touches also involved the first person perspective when the Martians speak, where we get to hear both Martian and English language tracks simultaneously as if we have put on the translating device ourselves.