Mars Needs Moms



Surprisingly touching adventure has sad moments amid comedy.
  • Review Date: January 1, 2011
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn the importance of doing their chores and not saying mean things to their mothers.

Positive messages

This movie has a strongly positive message: that kids should value and appreciate everything their moms do for them (even if it's chores and discipline) because it's all done out of love. There are also positive take-aways about helping friends in need and the importance of being raised by a family. The motivation behind the Supervisor's tyranny is rooted in female empowerment, but along the way it stripped female Martians of the ability to have families.

Positive role models

Mom is an excellent maternal role model: She's fair, loving, and selfless, and she doesn't think twice about saving Milo at her expense. She loves Milo unconditionally, even when he disappoints her by disobeying her. Gribble eventually helps Milo, even though it means that he'll be alone without a human friend. Ki realizes that her Supervisor's laws are unjust and helps Gribble and Milo save Mom.

Violence & scariness

Young kids may be upset to hear that Mom will be killed once her parenting skills are extracted to program the Nanny Bots. And at one point, it looks like she has actually died, which could be more disturbing. The Martian ladies, especially the Supervisor, are an imposing, menacing bunch, and the Supervisor always looks and sounds like she's giving mean orders. Gribble is nearly executed by firing squad (the Martians have huge gun-like weapons). There are some foot chases, and the climactic rush to save Mom and return to Earth is tense.

Sexy stuff

Flirting between Gribble and Ki. Gribble keeps blushing in her presence; at the end, they embrace, and she gives him a peck on the cheek.


Insults like "idiot," "stupid," and "jerk."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this animated 3-D adventure comedy based on the book by Berkeley Breathed is occasionally frightening -- and scenes in which it looks as though the Mom character has died could be quite upsetting for younger viewers -- but it has a very strong message about unconditional love. Because the animation is based on motion-capture technology, some of the tenser scenes (chases, a near execution, close calls with death) seem more realistic and may affect younger kids more than regular computer-generated animation. Expect a few insults ("stupid," "idiot," etc.) and very mild flirting between a female alien and a man who's grown up on Mars. Moms will particularly appreciate the movie's biggest take away: Even when they nag kids to do their chores or send them to bed without a treat, moms love their kids and would do anything to ensure their safety.

What's the story?

Nine-year-old Milo (Seth Green, whose voice is altered to sound younger) has a loving but occasionally disciplinarian mom (Joan Cusack) who sends him to bed without a movie because he feeds his broccoli to the cat. In response to her nagging, Milo spits out, "I wish I didn't have a mom," leaving her in tears. That night, an alien ship abducts her, but not before Milo jumps aboard and flies back to Mars as a stowaway. On Mars, Milo evades detection by jumping down a trash chute that leads to an underground Martian garbage dump, where all the male Martians are kept locked away by the ruling females. Milo meets Gribble (Dan Fogler), a tech-savvy human who explains that every 25 years, the Martians abduct a good Earthling mother in order to program a flock of nanny robots who raise Martian girl babies. If Milo can't save his mom before programming, she'll die -- and he'll be stuck on Mars forever.

Is it any good?


As motion-capture technology advances and produces more and more films, the startlingly realistic animation it produces is no longer as occasionally disturbing as it was when The Polar Express was released. It's easier to just be in awe of it now -- and to see the actors' faces and expressions in every scene. And MARS NEEDS MOMS, like most animated movies, features a noteworthy comedic voice cast, especially Green as Milo, Fogler as Gribble, and Cusack as Mom.

The film's weak link is the '60s-show-obsessed Martian, Ki (Elisabeth Harnois). She believes in groovy love thanks to watching the same 1960s TV program over and over again. It's funny for a little while to hear her say anachronistic catchphrases, but after a while the joke gets a bit flat. Still, this is a surprisingly tender and sweet adventure that helps kids understand that, despite the rules, the chores, and the bedtimes, mothers love their kids fiercely, unconditionally, and sacrificially. Mothers -- don't be surprised if you cry and your kids hug you extra tight.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's message. What is it saying about moms and kids? Kids: Do you see your mom at all differently after watching this movie?

  • Kids: What parts of the movie were scary and/or sad? Did any of it seem scarier or sadder because of the way the animation looks? Why do you think that is?

  • How does Milo's experience affect him? How does he act differently once he's back home?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 11, 2011
DVD release date:August 9, 2011
Cast:Dan Fogler, Joan Cusack, Seth Green
Director:Simon Wells
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Adventures, Book characters, Space and aliens
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:sci-fi action and peril

This review of Mars Needs Moms was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 7 year old Written byMom of MW March 13, 2011

Surprisingly Scary and Some Weird Messages.

Quite scary - my 7 year boy sees lots of movies - but this had too many near death scenes and was disturbing. One of the main characters was not able to save his mom. The messages were confusing and unclear. The moms that had well behaved kids and were stricter moms were the ones that could get abducted and killed by the Martians. So the message almost becomes don't behave too well or your mom could be abducted and killed. Also, there were male martians that behaved like unintelligent, fun-loving, crazy creatures that were not part of the orderly female run martian culture, they were not valued as bright or effective enough to raise the "hatchlings" along with the females. The male martians were ostracized from the society and lived together in the garbage dump. Very strange message that seemed to minimize the value of men & boys. The movie also had non-stop stressful moments - which was frightening for my son (who has actually seen parts of many live action movies such as "Lord of the Rings", "Star Wars", etc.). There was no down time for the child viewer - very few funny moments. Usually the reviews from Common Sense Media are right on - but this movie was not suitable for my family. This was an intense, stressful movie for my son with a very stressful subject matter (the idea of losing one's mom).
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great role models
Parent of a 7 year old Written byHaimanti April 11, 2011
i think its very good & entertaining movie for kids...they will njoy a lot...has a good message..
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 14 years old Written bysympatico October 8, 2011

Good movie, but not for young kids

After seeing the commercial on TV, I was not at all interested. But since Mars Needs Moms comes from the makers of Monster House, and The Polar Express, I decided it wouldn't hurt to give it a try, and the animation got me. So realistic, (maybe a little too realistic at times). The overall message is a decent one, that will relate to kids of all ages. But the storyline is a little strange though. A 9 year old boy must save a parent who has been abducted by aliens. Not your every day movie plot line. Violence is a big issue; this movie is jam packed with fighting, zapping, falling, smashing, exploding, you name it. All this, and there seems to be no "breaks". So I recommend this movie for children ages 9 and up. Most kids this age are mature enough to handle heavier topics like this one, but more sensitive viewers might need second thoughts. (Do not take young children to see this movie, even because it is animation. You will regret it.) There is also a few sad scenes, (one being very emotional near the end of the movie). Everything turns out fine in the end though. Kids who see this movie will look at their mothers differently, and learn in the end to respect not only their moms, but their whole family too.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


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