Australian Council on Children and the Media

Mars needs Moms

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Short takes

Not recommended under 7, PG to 10 (Violence; Disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Mars needs Moms
  • a review of Mars needs Moms completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 April 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 7 Not suitable due to violence and disturbing scenes
Children aged 7-9 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes
Children aged 10 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Mars needs Moms
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild science fiction violence and some upsetting scenes
Length 88 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

After disobeying his mother (voiced by Joan Cusack), nine-year-old Milo (voice of Seth Dusky, performance capture by Seth Green) is forbidden to watch his favourite TV program and is sent to bed, telling his mother, “My life would be so much better if I didn’t have a mom.” Milo later goes to his mother’s room to apologise, but discovers Martians in the process of abducting her. Milo chases the Martians and through a comedy of errors ends up as a stowaway aboard the Martian spaceship.

When the ship reaches Mars, Milo finds that the planet is ruled by female Martians, who quickly discover Milo and place him in a prison cell. With the assistance of an unseen source, Milo escapes via a garbage chute that leads him to a giant Martian rubbish dump. Milo finds the rubbish dump populated by hundreds of Martian males and one human male.  Gribble (Dan Fogler) is a techno genius who has been a castaway on Mars since he, like Milo, came as a boy. Through Gribble, Milo learns that every 25 years a batch of Martian babies are born. The males are discarded while the females are raised by nanny-bots. These robots are programmed with the memories of a single human mother, which is why the Martians needed Milo’s Mom. When Milo learns that the memory extraction process will kill his mother, he enlists Gribble’s help to devise a rescue plan.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Loss of a parent; aliens

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Mars needs Moms contains scenes of family argument, action violence and peril that are at times intense. Examples include:

  • Milo and his mother argue. Following the argument, Milo tells his mother, “My life would be so much better if I didn’t have a mom at all”, and his mother cries.
  • Milo’s mother is strapped to a stretcher and taken away by a group of Martians in space suits.
  • On several occasions throughout the film we see Martians chasing Milo and shooting laser guns, with green bolts of energy narrowly missing him.
  • A dog-sized droid ties Milo up with a rope attached to a balloon. Milo is dropped from the balloon on to a wooden bridge.
  • Milo pinches Gribble’s nipples to force him to do what he wants.       
  • A group of Martian women wielding laser guns capture Gribble and then blast his house with their guns.
  • A Martian firing squad powers up laser guns and aims them at Gribble. Just as the Martians are about to fire at Gribble, Milo swings through the air on a rope knocks into the Martian firing squad and sends their guns flying. A friendly Martian manages to catch one of the guns and throws it the Milo, who uses the weapon to blast a hole in the floor and escape.
  • After he is shot at by Martians, Gribble’s hair catches alight.   
  • Flashback images of Gribble’s mother strapped to a table and a machine with a giant needle-like probe poised to pierce his mother’s head. There is a flash of light and his mother is vaporised.
  • We also see Milo’s mother unconscious and strapped to a table and the machine poised to pierce her head. The machine is fired up and an electrical charge runs down the length of the needle while Milo frantically attempts to free his mother. Milo uses a laser gun to blast his mother’s restraints, pulling her off the table in the nick of time.
  • A female Martian knocks out two other Martians by injecting them in the back with a tranquiliser.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • There are a number of scary characters, such as the different types of Martians, including hairy ape-like males, armour-wearing guards and robot dogs. The computer animated humans also have an unsettling appearance. 
  • As Milo is dragged up into the Martian spaceship, we see him shaking and his face distorting. 
  • Milo hangs on by his fingertips to the side of a Martian skyscraper with a bottomless abyss dropping away beneath him. Milo falls onto a narrow ledge and then into the abyss, but is rescued by a Martian.
  • Gribble becomes very distressed when he is forced to relive the death of his own mother at the hands of the Martians. He tells Milo that it was his fault that his mother was killed. The Martians had chosen his mother because Gribble was a well behaved child. Gribble is also very distressed by the fact that he was unable to tell his mother that he loved her before she died.   
  • As Martians discuss the execution of Gribble, we see Gribble in front of a wall with the blacken images of prior victims etched into the wall. 
  • After she gives Milo her helmet, his mother collapses. Milo holds her in his arms as she gasps for air and passes out.  He is very distressed, telling his mother that she has to come home with him and that he loves her.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A female Martian, Ki, tells Gribble that she thinks he is amazing and we see Gribble blush. The pair flirt on several occasions with Gribble turning red each time and the Martian telling Gribble “I dig it when you change colour”.  This blushing happens several times as Gribble and Ki interact.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • naked Martian babies with furry bottoms
  • female Martians wearing tight fitting clothing
  • Gribble and Ki embracing

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • A  recorded image of a 1960s TV show depicts two men behaving as if on drugs
  • Ki injects two Martian guards with a tranquiliser and we also see a droid inject one of the guards with a tranquiliser.

Coarse language

Infrequent low-level coarse language, name calling and putdowns include:

  • “make me barf”, “stinker”, “zombies”, “freakazoid”, “butt”, “dummy”, “maniac”, “dumb as a box of rocks”

In a nutshell

Mars Needs Moms is a 3D animated science fiction adventure targeting  primary school aged children, but also likely to entertain older viewers. The film’s animation is based upon motion-capture technology that gives the film a more realistic appearance and may have a greater impact on younger children in terms of scary images or disturbing scenes. Some of these scenes make it unsuitable for children under seven.

The main message from this movie is that, despite having to set guidelines, enforce rules and hand out punishments, parents love their children unconditionally.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Selflessness, courage and bravery: Throughout the film Milo repeatedly puts his life on the line to save his mother and his friends.
  • Perseverance: Regardless of the obstacles placed in his path Milo refuses to give in.

Parents may also wish discuss with their children the reasons why rules and boundaries need to be set, and how they provide children with a sense of security and a safer environment.

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