This article touches on a few truths, but the biggest… that Zemeckis’ motion capture CGI is downright unsettling and not enjoyable to watch… needs a lot more hammering home.
First, let’s discuss the other factors. Promotion-wise, this film has also dropped the ball. It’s based on a book by Berke Breathed, creator of Bloom County? It stars Seth Green? There are two selling points totally ignored in the promotional campaign, probably because they’re only meaningful to adults… but had I known both of those factors, it would have made me take a second look.
Meanwhile, little kids don’t want to see a movie about moms being captured so that nasty aliens can harvest something from her, and older kids don’t want to go to a movie about moms.
The title references a somewhat obscure TV movie that is 45 years old; to the vast majority of audiences encountering the title, it doesn’t come off as a joke.
Why go to the movie? Is it a comedy? The trailer needed to be much funnier. A visual treat? Nothing in the trailer appears particularly stunning. It’s 3-D, right? Are there any visuals in the trailer that look like they’ll just pop out of the screen when you’re watching it with glasses at the IMAX? Nope.
Seth Green is the only “star” and while he is enjoyable he’s hardly got the cache of Tom Hanks (The Polar Express) or Jim Carrey (Christmas Carol). One could argue that without those two huge box office draws, Zemeckis’ previous uncanny valley creepfests could have also done mediocre to poorly.
Zemeckis should have changed things up and tried something different than a third adaptation of a book aimed at children. If the point is selling his motion-capture process, he should have tried an action piece aimed at an older audience, a real popcorn piece targeting the Star Wars fans. But he didn’t, and now his animation studio is kaput.
The real lesson? If you are halfway through doing your movie and it looks like a dud, then don’t be afraid to reexamine it. Disney did that when their ultra-serious Incanepic musical went off the rails. They retooled the whole thing, grabbed David Spade, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt and Tom Jones and turned out a hilarious full-length cartoon called “The Emperor’s New Groove” that would be pretty much their best non-Pixar movie for the next decade. With “Moms”, they knew the movie wasn’t going to be a success but they just went ahead and finished it. Too bad.