Monday, September 12, 2011

Review - Rango and Mars Needs Moms

Today I'll review two movies--one critically acclaimed and one critically slammed.  And guess what!  I had the exact opposite reaction.

Rango:  Currently, this sits at 7.5 on  Roger Ebert says, "An animated comedy for smart moviegoers."  I had high hopes for this movie, but something just felt missing.

The movie does have its moments.  There are quite a few funny scenes (most of which are in the previews).  The plot is somewhat interesting, though it's just another typical Western.  (Hey, I did like Cowboys and Aliens.)  There's noticeable character development (though formulaic).  The animation is nearly flawless.  It had all the makings of a great film, so why was I disappointed?

It was just boring.  I don't know if it was pacing, or the fact that I don't really like lizards.  Or perhaps it was the feeling that I saw it all before and knew what was going to happen and wished for someone to change the formula.

But most importantly, my kids thought it was boring.  The only things they liked were the "Pirates of the Caribbean" references.  (I'll take their word for it.  I did recognize the one scene lifted from "At World's End.")  The innuendos and the beheaded naked Barbie top made my older kids uncomfortable.  Just like the recent Land of the Lost, this movie struggles to find its target audience.  Is it for kids?  The trailer seems to say so.  Then why all the sex jokes?  Kids really do pick up on those, and if they're not old enough to understand, they just feel uncomfortable.  If you make a really good movie, then you don't need to "add something for the adults."  Look at "Toy Story" and ... well ... most Pixar movies.

Despite all the positives this movie had, it just didn't deliver.

Mars Needs Moms: This sits at 4.9 on  Jason McKiernan of says, "Mars doesn't need moms, and Earth doesn't need this movie."  Very witty and a typical critic attitude.  If it's trash, it doesn't even deserve to exist.  Lo and behold, the $150 million movie didn't even break $22 million.

I had already heard what the critics said and avoided this movie until it appeared on our Netflix queue.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Sure, the whole concept is idiotic.  (That didn't stop me from enjoying Tron and Tron: Legacy.)  Sure, the animation is no where near Pixar quality.  (Though the whole matching human movement technology is pretty cool and I liked all the color combinations.)  Sure, the setup of the problem (women separated from men, and women raised by nanny bots) and the whole resolution is absurd.  (But what else do you expect from a Disney movie?)

There is a lot in this movie for anyone to despise it, but something happened when I watched.  The jokes were funny.  Some of the scenes were touching.  This movie had heart.  My kids--ALL OF THEM--watched it the whole way through.  There was no running around hitting each other or running to the bathroom saying, "Don't pause it for me."  Something about the movie was captivating.

To summarize:

Rango = good but boring.  Kids went to sleep and/or got offended by sex jokes.
Mars Needs Moms = bad but captivating.  Kids even watched the extras on the DVD.

My advice: if you watch "Rango," plan to watch it without the kids, and put on your "smart" hats.  You wouldn't want Ebert to call you dumb.

If you have kids, put "Mars Needs Moms" on your queue.  It's definitely worth a buck, and you may even enjoy this sleeper.  And if a critic catches you watching it, you can just go tell him to ...


Kate H. said...

I really don't think Rango was a movie for kids, even though it was marketed as such. I think it was an animated film for adults, in spite of the PG rating. I really enjoyed it, but that's because I wasn't expecting it to have adult sensibilities. Take warning: not all cartoons are meant for children.

As for Mars Needs Moms, I never got a chance to watch it, but the people I know who did see it really liked it. I think it just got a lot of bad press because it was one of the motion captures done in the same way as Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, both of which also didn't do well critically.

Melvyn Windham said...

Yes, I think "Rango" works better as an adult movie.

And FTR, I did like "Polar Express." I haven't seen "A Christmas Carol," but I think it's free streaming on Netflix (until March 2012 when Starz pulls out). I'll check it out and report. :)