Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom capable of carrying a family film, the fly would be pretty low on the scale. Nothing against the garbage-picking pest, but Jeff Goldblum and David Cronenberg more or less ruined their run as anthropomorphized amusement. It's safe to say that not even a perfectly executing Pixar could salvage the meandering of Fly Me to the Moon. This 3D CGI effort about Apollo 11 -- and three young bugs who decided to hitch a rocket ride -- is so out of joint and jingoistic that you're not sure whether to stand and salute or simply hold your nose.
An intrepid trio of flies -- the corpulent Scooter, brainy IQ, and daring daydreamer Nat -- have longed to be part of some real life adventure. Spurred on by Nat's daredevil Grandpa (Christopher Lloyd
) who claims to have accompanied Amelia Earhart on her Trans-Atlantic flight, they decide to stowaway on the upcoming Moon Mission. When the Russian flies find out that there are American insects onboard, they send operative Yegor (Tim Curry
) to sabotage the flight. It will be a race between freedom and the forces of evil to ensure the USA places the first men -- and pests -- on the lunar surface. Article continues below
While it may seem cliché to say it, not even the added element of 2008 3D technology can save Fly Me to the Moon from being flat and rather dimensionless. Of course, it's hard to wrap your cute proclivities around a film that features squirming baby maggots as a source of visual humor (complete with comic cooing). The choice of bug here definitely deserves some criticism, since they are rendered in a manner that reduces them to unrecognizable piles of plumber's putty, except for the females who are far too buxom, even for bugs. Granted, this kid flick isn't looking to satisfy entomologists, just entertain. But with its pat storyline, lack of excitement, and clumsy Cold War subplot, it fails as either science or fun.
Part of the problem here is the intended audience. Fly Me to the Moon is not made for cognizant wee ones raised on years of Fox and DreamWorks product. There is nary a pop culture riff nor hip homage present. And unlike similar computer-generated fare from 2008, it doesn't have WALL-E
's visual panache or Kung Fu Panda
's Shaw brothers reverence. Instead, this is just genre generics, reminiscent of something the VeggieTales people would put out -- minus the dung and flatulence jokes, however. It's all set up to sell a simple lesson (NASA and space are coooooool!) and then repeat that message over and over. The real Buzz Aldrin even shows up before the end credits to make sure we don't question the competency -- or cleanliness -- of his trip to the stars.
It's all very much a retro trip to a '60s era Tomorrowland attraction. The 3D fakes the kind of "you are there" immersion that House of Mouse Imagineers still thrive on, and the entire journey is kept safe and antiseptic so tiny tots (and anyone with a heart condition, or taste) remain out of harm's way. The oddball arrival of Soviet saboteurs -- complete with Curry's Paul Frees accent -- will have you wondering where Moose and Squirrel are, and the lockstep problem/payoff story structure is like entertainment hypnosis, basically brainwashing you into believing you're watching an actual film. Sadly, with its one note characterization (fat fly = hungry) and inability to engage, this celebration of a giant leap for mankind is really just a small, insignificant step for film fans.