Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fly Me to the Moon

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Blame Jiminy Cricket. Since the day that diminutive top-hatted dandy first wished upon a star, animators have periodically tried to make insects cuddly. For every attempt that succeeds, say A Bug's Life, there's a bunch of weird misfires such as Antz, which tried to sidestep the "ick" factor by putting Woody Allen's and Sylvester Stallone's words in their cartoon mandibles. Fly Me to the Moon is in the latter category, as it attempts to make space-conquering heroes out of common houseflies, who, after all, are disease-carrying insects that feed on refuse and shit. No matter how you spin it, or how much 3D trickery you slap on, a bug is still a bug.

Actually the average bug probably has more personality than these ugly and pale blue beasties. The "daring one" is dubbed Nat, the clownish fat fly is Scooter and, in a burst of ingenuity, the brainy nerd is called "I.Q." Whatever.

It's the summer of 1969, and these three teeny malcontents take a break from buzzing the scrap heap and munching on dung long enough to listen to Nat's doddering Grandpa (Christopher Lloyd) rattle on about how he once rode shotgun with Amelia Earhart. Somehow this tale inspires the boys to flap over to the Kennedy Space Center to stow away on the historic Apollo 11 moon mission. Nat's worrying mom — voiced by Kelly Ripa — is a major buzzkill who keeps saying "dreamers get swatted" and gives disapproving looks through oversized pink cat-eye frames, which, of course, lack the hundreds of tiny frames a real fly needs. (Such nitpicking's moot on a picture loaded with fart jokes, cutesy maggots and evil Russian flies with borscht-thick accents.) Adding to the old-school weirdness is the sight of the real-life and NASA-shilling astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who pops in to assure us that no flies were really in space. The whole affair has a musty aroma, harking back to a creaky era before Pixar forever raised the bar for big screen cartoons with beautiful, clever amusements that can entertain adults and kids equally.

To distract from the flat, dreary animation and lameness of the comedy, there's some nifty 3-D, with the big rocket launch being only slightly outclassed by the bit where Scooter eats floating drops of Tang. Yet the modern whiz-bang can't cover the generally tired plot and sorry-ass gags and the strangely retro "let's beat the Russkies" jingoism of the piece; even weirder, the film was made in that crazy animation hot bed called Belgium.

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