This was the final movie produced by ImageMovers Digital before its closure in 2011. It received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics who praised voice acting, visuals, and John Powell's soundtrack, but criticism its writing, premise, character expressions, and drama, Opinions of the motion capture animation were mixed. Some praised it for looking realistic and others criticized it for falling into the uncanny valley and looking creepy. The film grossed $39 million worldwide on a $150 million budget, making it a box-office flop.
On the planet Mars, there is a thriving and technologically sophisticated society of Martians living below the planet's surface. The Martians' Supervisor observes Earth and sees a mother getting her son Milo to take out the trash. She is impressed by this and decides to bring her to Mars, where her knowledge of how to raise children will be extracted and implanted into the next generation of nannybots to raise their young.
Meanwhile, Milo (who does not seem to enjoy following the house rules very much) gets caught feeding his broccoli to the family's pet cat and is grounded. He sarcastically tells his mother that his life would be a lot better if she wasn't there. Milo soon regrets this thoughtless statement and goes to apologize, but then discovers his mom is being abducted. He successfully enters the Martian spaceship: however, they end up separated when they arrive on Mars. Milo is taken to an underground cell and tries to escape, only to be pursued by Martian guards. He hears a voice speaking over an intercom, telling him to jump down the chute. He does so and ends up in a subterranean level filled with trash and inhabited by furry Martian creatures.
After Milo escapes the creatures, he meets Gribble (aka George Ribble) the childlike and tech-savvy man living in the area with his pet robot Two-Cat who told him to jump down the chute. Gribble agrees to help Milo rescue his mom but the plan goes awry when he is captured. Milo is then rescued by Ki, an upbeat Martian girl who previously learned English from 1970s psychedelic TV shows. He tells her what a human relationship is like, as the Martians were always raised by machines and do not know love.
Milo soon finds out that Gribble is going to be executed and runs to the execution site. He almost gets captured, but Ki gives him a laser gun which allows them to escape. Milo and Gribble retreat to an even lower level, where Gribble describes his own mother's abduction twenty years earlier, revealing that the memory extraction process will vaporize Milo's mother. After Ki finds him, they discover an ancient mural of a Martian family and realize Martian children weren't always raised by robots. Gribble says Martian female babies are raised by nannybots, as the male ones are sent down to the trash heap to be raised by the furry Martians Milo saw earlier.
Milo saves his mother just before sunrise, causing the extraction device and the electronic locks in the control room to short out. The adult males and hatchlings enter, running amok and attacking the guards. Milo and his mom grab breathing helmets and try to make it across the surface, but the Supervisor shoots at Milo and makes him trip, causing his helmet to break. His mom gives him her own helmet so he won't die but she starts suffocating in the Martian air. The Martians are astonished by this selfless act, as this is the first time they have seen love. Gribble finds his own mother's helmet and gives it to Milo's mom, saving her life. The Supervisor tries to intervene but Ki explains that Martians were meant to be raised in families. The Supervisor declares the current situation more efficient, causing the Martian guards to turn on her and realize the importantance of family life. She is arrested and the Martians rejoice.
Milo, his mom, Gribble, Two-Cat and Ki return to Earth and Gribble proclaims that he is going to stay on Mars, as he wishes to pursue a romantic relationship with Ki. Milo and his mom arrive home just before Milo's dad returns.
- Seth Green as Milo (motion-capture)
- Seth Dusky as Milo (voice only)
- Joan Cusack as Milo's mom
- Tom Everett Scott as Milo's dad
- Elisabeth Harnois as Ki
- Dan Fogler as Gribble
- Mindy Sterling as The Supervisor
- Kevin Cahoon as Wingnut
- Jacque Barnbrook, Matthew Henerson, Adam Jennings, Stephen Kearney, Amber Gainey Meade, Aaron Rapke, Julene Renee, Kirsten Severson, and Matt Wolf as Martians
- Ryan Ochoa, Robert Ochoa, Raymond Ochoa, and Gavin Bryson Thompson as Martian Hatchlings
- Liam and Edgar Wells as Robot Martians
- Dee Bradley Baker as Two-Cat
- Marianne Bennett
- Jo McGinley
- Daniel James O'Connor
- Edi Patterson
- Erik Schaper
- April Warren
Simon Wells first meet Robert Zemeckis in the mid-1980s when he was supervising animator and storyboard artist for the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He also worked on Back to the Future Part II and III and later worked on The Polar Express, which was why he was attracted to making Mars Needs Moms. The production designer was Doug Chiang, and the supervising art director was Norm Newberry. The title of the film is a twist on the title of American International Pictures' 1966 film Mars Needs Women. After spending six weeks outfitted in a special sensor-equipped motion-capture suit while simultaneously performing Milo's lines, Seth Green's voice sounded too old and mature for the character and was dubbed over by that of then 11-year-old actor Seth Dusky.
Mars Needs Moms received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics who praised voice acting, visuals, and John Powell’s soundtrack, but criticism its writing, premise, character expressions, and drama, Opinions of the motion capture animation were mixed. Some praised it for looking realistic and others criticized it for falling into the uncanny valley and looking creepy, and an approval rating of 37% on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 115 reviews, stating "The cast is solid and it's visually well-crafted, but Mars Needs Moms suffers from a lack of imagination and heart."
The trailer of the film premiered in front of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, and then was attached to Tangled. The film was a bomb on its opening weekend with just $6,914,488 on its first week while playing at 3,117 locations. This was the 12th worst opening ever for a film playing in 3000+ theaters, but dropped only 23% due to spring break in week 2. In week 3, it plunged by 58% to $2,258,428. As of December 7, 2011, the movie has grossed just $21,392,758 on a $150 million budget, and at the moment is technically the fifth-biggest box-office bomb in film history, with a net loss of $111,007,242, when counting the foreign gross of $17.6 million.