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Fly Me to the Moon 3D

Yet Another Lackluster Pixar Imitation

Fly Me to the Moon 3D, the latest attempt by an animation studio not named Pixar to duplicate Pixar’s commercial and critical success is, like most of its predecessors in the Pixar imitation sweepstakes, short on visual and narrative originality. The first feature-length effort from nWave Pictures, a fledgling Belgium animation studio, and director Ben Stassen, Fly Me to the Moon, borrows the central conceit from Pixar’s second, lesser animated film, A Bug’s Life, mixes the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, Cold War politics, and broad physical comedy and uninspired verbal humor, with sub-Pixar- production values, ultimately resulting in an underwhelming, unsatisfactory viewing experience for all but the youngest, unsophisticated moviegoers.

With the Apollo 11 moon mission just days away from takeoff, Nat (voiced by Trevor Gagnon), a precocious housefly, and his two friends, the bespectacled I.Q. (Philip Bolde), and the always-hungry Scooter (David Gore), dream of “adventuring,” the word favored by Nat’s grandfather (Christopher Lloyd). Nat’s mother (Kelly Ripa) would, of course, object to Nat’s idea of hitching a ride with the Apollo 11 astronauts, so Nat, like any “kid” his age, decides to sneak out when she’s asleep. After creating spacesuits for the Apollo 11 mission, Nat, I.Q., and Scooter hitch a ride with a NASA engineer who works at Cape Canaveral.

Getting onboard the space capsule, however, proves to be easier than the risks and dangers Nat and his friends face after Apollo 11 hurtles into space on its way to the moon. Besides avoiding capture, Nat and his friends have to deal with malfunctioning equipment. Back on earth, Russian Communist houseflies, Poopchev (Ed Begley Jr.) and Leonide (Steve Kramer), send one of their operatives, Yegor (Tim Curry), to sabotage Apollo 11’s return. Grandpa’s old flame, Nadia (Nicollette Sheridan), a Russian housefly working for Poopchev, decides to warn the American houseflies of Yegor’s plans to sabotage Apollo 11’s return home.

Screenwriter Domonic Paris tries really hard to infuse the script with comedy, set pieces, and, of course, life lessons that have become de rigueur for family-oriented animated films. Unfortunately, Paris’ screenplay has little to offer outside of stale, repetitive jokes (visual and verbal), dull, barely-there set pieces, off-the-shelf, banal life lessons involving anthropomorphic houseflies, unattractive, uninspired character designs, and woefully unfunny Cold War-era caricatures used for “comic relief.” Unfortunately, Paris’ script isn’t helped by Stassen’s bland, uninspired direction.

To be fair, Stassen had neither the budget (17.3 million euros or 25.7 million U.S. dollars) nor the imagination to come close to Pixar-level magic, even with 3D technology at his disposal. If Stassen thought that making Fly Me to the Moon 3D in 3D would cover for multiple storytelling deficiencies, he was sadly mistaken (as box office returns opening weekend will soon attest). Stassen and his animators did manage to come up with several visually impressive outer space shots, but they’re far from enough to justify the price of a movie ticket, let alone an entire family. Unless Stassen can obtain additional funding and better collaborators, he should stick to what he’s done up until now: creating theme park rides.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars