August 21, 2008

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Fly Me To the Moon (G)
Precocious young flies stowaway on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon in Fly Me to the Moon, a light, medium-fun animated tale made more impressive than it really is through the magic of 3-D.

Dreamer Nat (Trevor Gagnon), his nerdy friend IQ (Philip Bolden) and their chubby friend Scooter (David Gore) hear tales of adventure from Nat’s grandpa (Christopher Lloyd) and hunger for some adventure of their own. (Well, not Scooter — he hungers for more cake, because he’s chubby and this movie makes a lot of jokes at his expense until he is shamed into saying he’ll go on a diet. Way to address obesity in kids with sensitivity, movie.) When the three flies (I place them at whatever age is the insect equivalent of about 12) hear about the humans’ plans for a mission to the moon, Nat convinces his friends to sneak into the offices at Cape Canaveral and wiggle and buzz their way into the spacecraft. Much to the horror of their moms (who are tending to the maggots back in the swamp), the boys get into the cockpit and are soon headed into space.

Space is the best part of this movie. Movies about space exploration reawaken my inner science nerd, the pony-tail- and glasses-wearing kid who watched 1986’s Space Camp a jillion times. Fly Me to the Moon prettily recreates the blast-off, the various orbital maneuvers, the “one small step for man” moment and the spooky, beautiful surface moon and its Earth-filled sky. Even the movie’s final moments, when non-animated, real-human Buzz Aldrin shows up to explain that there weren’t really any flies on Apollo 11, we get that “wow, cool” sense of wonder that comes with any halfway decent portrayal of space flight. If only to take some really sweet photos, Fly Me to the Moon makes a pretty good case for humans making a return trip to our nearest heavenly body.

The wonder of space helps to make up for the less-wondrous rest of this cartoon. In addition to the picking-on-the-fat-kid subplot, there’s some nonsense about nefarious Soviet flies (complete with Boris-and-Natasha accents and Eastern Bloc military outfits) and a weird running joke about Nat’s mom’s (Kelly Ripa) constant fainting. With the movie clocking in at less than 90 minutes, I don’t know if this goofiness will have younger members of the audience squirming but I know I wanted to fast forward back to the beautiful shots of space, surprisingly well-augmented by the not-too-gimmicky use of 3-D. B-

Rated G. Directed by Ben Stassen and written by Domonic Paris, Fly Me to the Moon is an hour and 25 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Summit Entertainment