Fly Me to the Moon
Does this remind anyone else of the Canteen Boy skit from SNL?

Theatrical Release Date: 08/15/2008
Director: Ben Stassen
Featuring the voices of: Trevor Gagnon, Philip Bolden, David Gore, Christopher Lloyd, Kelly Ripa, Tim Curry, Robert Patrick

Oddly enough, 2008 has largely been dominated by animated films besting their live-action counterparts: “Kung Fu Panda“, “Horton Hears a Who” and “WALL·E” all rank equally or higher on the entertainment scale for me than all but a handful of films (“The Dark Knight“, “The Visitor“, “Step Brothers“). That’s not to say any of the animated films but “WALL·E” have a realistic chance of making it to my Top 10 list at the end of the year but you’d expect a little more competition from flesh and blood.

As such, I was desperately hoping that “Fly Me to the Moon” would continue the trend and not only deliver a quality animated film but also take advantage of the 3D format that is the trendy choice for filmmakers these days as they attempt to reverse lowering attendance in the past few years. (Sure, box office is up but that’s because of higher ticket prices.) Unfortunately, after seeing the film, I guess all good things really must come to an end.

Not only is “Fly Me to the Moon” a sub-standard and below mediocre kids’ film, the 3D was more annoying than entertaining. And considering the film boasts itself as the first animated film created for 3D, that can’t be good. Director Ben Stassen has been in the director’s chair for a number of 3D projects and I can only assume he does know the technical ins and outs of the process. For someone with so much 3D experience, it was saddening to see so little of the film truly take advantage of the medium.

Aside from the good 3D on rocket launches, the film could have been in 2D and I wouldn’t have noticed it too much … at least in a postive light. One of my bigger problems with the film was that so much of the 3D left me cross-eyed or forced to shut one eye so I could watch it in 2D without pain. The edges of the frame were consistently a problem in this regard and close-up objects also had issues. While “Journey to the Center of the Earth” had similar difficulties, they paled in frequency to this film and there were other shots that better took advantage of the third dimension technology.

I’ve even taken a peek at some message boards where 3D aficionados decry other Hollywood fare and claim this film is true 3D as opposed to a half-ass version being used elsewhere. Since I’m no expert on the details behind bringing the third dimension to films, I can only go with how the experience felt to me and had I a choice of seeing films in plain, traditional 2D or this “true 3D” – I’d pick 2D every day of the week and twice on Wednesday.

Unfortunately for the film, annoying 3D wasn’t the only problem. When it comes to kids’ films, the central characters should be captivating and have some measure of presence on-screen (even via voice acting). While some of the “blame” must go to the kids who voiced the characters, it isn’t really their fault. There are adults all around them who should be coaching them to find real emotion behind their characters … and more importantly, someone should have taken a second pass at the script and figured out a way to make the lines being delivered worth the effort.

Set in the midst of the space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (hence available transportation to the moon), the filmmakers interjected the Cold War into the lives of flies. I could see doing this in a graphic novel or with a film whose core story dealt with those themes. But here, the central issue is adventurous kids wanting to do something extraordinary, largely because of the grandiose stories one of their grandfathers tell them over and over again.

And don’t think I’m just annoyed at the lackluster voice-acting for the three main characters. Poor Tim Curry got roped into playing a one dimensional Russian stooge, only making me feel shame and pain on his behalf. Then there’s the other Russian voice actors, Ed Begley Jr. and Nicollette Sheridan. According to IMDb, Begley’s from Los Angeles and Sheridan was born in the UK. Why in the hell are they playing characters with Russian accents? At least Curry has the range to make it work and has done the accent before (“Hunt for Red October”). While Begley comes off as a standard caricature, Sheridan sounded half-Italian to me. Go figure.

Then there’s another element that was like a punch to the gut: Buzz Aldrin. A true American hero, Aldrin was instrumental to the success and popularity of the NASA missions and continues to represent this country and the space program with dignity. At least, that’s what I thought until he comes on-screen once the credits start rolling. He gives a terrible explanation about how implausible the film is (duh) and then thanks the people responsible for all of the terrific work that’s been done by NASA over the years.

It’s not that it’s a bad message – it’s that it comes out of left field for no apparent reason other than appeasing NASA perhaps or being part of the deal that got the filmmakers better access to footage and materials that would help them visualize Mission Control, the rockets and the actions of the astronauts while in space.

When I was leaving the theater, I heard a mom ask her son (who was 4 or 5) if she liked this better than “WALL·E” and he said that he did … in the same manner that he might say he’d just pooped his pants. To put it bluntly, “Fly Me to the Moon” is a bore and a waste of your time and money. As such, I’m giving it a 1 out of 5 and encouraging parents to take their children to something else if they absolutely have to go to a theater in the coming weeks … just don’t sit next to me – your kids make too much noise and I’d rather hear what’s coming out of the speakers than you telling your kids to settle down … which they should.