Robert Zemeckis is poised to leave behind the motion-capture animation trend he helped pioneer, but in the meantime, the new film Mars Needs Moms (which he produced) is ready to take up his slack: namely, by continuing to plumb the uncanny valley in a deeply unnerving way. Directed by Simon Wells (An American Tail: Fievel Goes West) and based on the book by Berkeley Breathed, it's the sort of animated movie that's insistent that its human characters look as lifelike as possible, though it should be noted that the children's book it was based on actually embraced its cartoonishness. Once upon a time, the outlandish, space-set plot of Mars Needs Moms — a boy has to find and learn to appreciate his mom after she's kidnapped by Martians — might have required an animated approach in order to keep its budget down, but the booming effects industry and the expensive motion-capture process make the decision kind of a draw. Directors are actually making a choice to have animation that's as realistic as possible, but the point of animation is lost in the process: The result is a kind of cartoon that seems like it doesn't actually want to be a cartoon.
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