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One Giant Leap Backward for 3-D Animation

Fly Me to the Moon (2008)

Summit Entertainment

"Fly Me to the Moon" functions less as a movie than a 3-D demo reel. It exhibits all the latest in multidimensional effects, but forgets to tell a story to accompany them. For most of the film, Domonic Paris’s screenplay lifts wholesale from the actual transcripts of the Apollo 11 space flight. The production only departs from a simplified retelling of that tale in the narrative’s adoption of the perspective of three adolescent flies who have stowed away on the spaceship.

There might be some promise in the notion of flies being as moved to explore the heavens as humans, but Mr. Paris and director Ben Stassen leave all of it untapped. Beyond one impressive establishing shot of a miniature fly city, the filmmaker does absolutely nothing to distinguish his main characters from their human counterparts. There is no fly universe to speak of, and not a shred of creativity or interesting satire in the evocation of the characters’ everyday lives. Scooter (David Gore), I.Q. (Philip Bolden) and Nat (Trevor Gagnon) act exactly as space obsessed little boys might, and once they board Apollo 11 they do little but hover around, waiting for landing.

For the majority of the picture, as our three heroes idle around, the filmmakers keep things so straightforward and obvious that they reduce one of the great human achievements to Saturday morning cartoon caliber fodder. No one considers the momentousness of the occasion and the desultory attempts at drama largely arise out of silly, inconvenient plot contrivances. There is not the slightest effort to appeal to the older crowd (i.e. anyone over eight years old, and some younger) that will undoubtedly be forced to don the 3-D glasses for this.

Also, the animation leaves a lot to be desired. The humans recall the poorly-designed, featureless representations that C.G.I. left behind more than a decade ago. There’s no sense of wonder in the depiction of the flies’ world and the flat, texture-free surface of the moon resembles a slab of still drying cement. There is absolutely no reason for the movie to be in 3-D. Although Mr. Stassen has a lot of experience with the format, he never even provides the sort of audience pandering, pop-out moments we have been conditioned to expect from it.

To summarize: "Fly Me to the Moon" looks bad, lazily floats through its story and provides the added inconvenience of forcing its audience into those uncomfortable glasses. It’s an all around nightmarish experience, more discomforting than most horror movies and on par with some of the worst made for kids entertainment. Parents, do everything you can to avoid it, even if you have to lie to your children.


Opens on Aug. 15 in the United States and on Oct. 3 in Britain.

Directed by Ben Stassen; written by Domonic Paris, based on a story by Gina Gallo and Mr. Paris; animation supervisor, Philippe Taillez; music by Ramin Djawadi; art director, Jérémie Degruson; produced by Charlotte Huggins, Caroline Van Iseghem, Gina Gallo and Mimi Maynard; released by Summit Entertainment (United States) and Momentum Pictures (Britain). Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is rated G by M.P.A.A. and PG by B.B.F.C.

WITH THE VOICES OF: Christopher Lloyd (Grandpa), Kelly Ripa (Nat’s Mom), Nicollette Sheridan (Nadia), Tim Curry (Yegor), Trevor Gagnon (Nat), Philip Daniel Bolden (I.Q.), David Gore (Scooter) and Buzz Aldrin (Himself).


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