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  • PG
  • Adventure, Animation
  • 2008
  • 84 mins

Fly Me To The Moon 3D

Fly Me To The Moon 3D

Synopsis

Ben Stassen's animated 3D feature for children offers a fly-on-the-wall account of the first lunar landing

About

"Uh, Houston, we seem to have a small problem."

In fact, the loose wire that Neil Armstrong has just detected in Apollo 11's circuitry is not the only fly in the ointment of his now famous moontrip. There is also a trio of 'real' young American houseflies on board who have hitched a ride in the hope of becoming the first insects on the lunar surface - and there are three additional Russian fly operatives down at Houston mission control, determined to sabotage any American success.

No amount of zero gravity can quite hold off the weight of influence bearing down on this film either. Not only does it recreate what is arguably television's most unifying moment, the footage of the first lunar mission, from a fly-on-the-wall perspective, but along the way it takes in the space chimps from, er, Space Chimps (2008), the mission-in-trouble adventure of Apollo 13 (1995), and even the space ballet of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - although weightless mid-air dancing to the tune of 'The Blue Danube' is somehow diluted in its impact when the participants are already able to fly anyway.

It is all too easy to criticise the animated 3D feature Fly Me To The Moon for its poverty of characterisation, its puerile succession of fat and fart jokes and its lack of a compelling narrative (apart from the actual story of the 1969 lunar landing on which, much like its musciform - and often Muscovite - characters, it merely piggybacks).

Regular hero Nat, food-obsessed Scooter and brainy, four-eyed I.Q. (even the name is lazy) are essentially Alvin and the Chipmunks with wings, their Russian counterparts are gross racial stereotypes with 'comedy' accents and syntax ("How this heppen to us?", etc.), Nat's mother faints a lot and declares "Oh my Lord - of the Flies!" twice (in case you missed the 'hilarity' first time around), while Soviet fly fatale Nadia rather alarmingly displays the sort of hour-glass figure more commonly associated with wasps.

Most bizarrely, at the film's end, the real, live-action Buzz Aldrin (no doubt chosen in part for his fly-fitting name) turns up to reassure us: "No matter what you may have heard or seen, there were in fact no contaminants on Apollo 11." Thanks for clearing that up for us, Buzz - you might even have added that houseflies do not talk, build their own space suits or repair damage to sophisticated electronics; that, unlike Nat's Grandpa, who claims to have crossed the Atlantic with Amelia Earhart in 1928 and almost to have joined a chimp in space back in 1961, the average life expectancy of the adult musca domestica is no more than 25 days; and, more generally, that CARTOONS AREN'T REAL.

All this, however, is perhaps missing the point. Adults may be perplexed, dumbfounded and bored by this meandering, joyless mess, but young children will be mesmerised. While there have been animated films optionally available in 3D before, this is the first ever computer-animated film designed, created and produced from first frame exclusively for the 3D experience (and not being released in any other format), and you can really tell.

Adults may scoff at how insubstantial, implausible and inane the plot is, but a different story is told by the spectacle of a whole cinema-full of young 'uns simultaneously reaching their hands forward to grab the objects apparently floating before their eyes in a fully immersive universe. Once they have taken this trip to the moon, they might well need Buzz Aldrin to bring them back down to the IMAX lobby.

Films like this take years to make and presumably when Fly Me To The Moon was first conceived, no one had any idea that resurrecting the spectre of Cold War politics would seem anything other than quaintly harmless fun in keeping with the project's overall sense of nostalgia. How time flies. In 2008, with America trying to expand its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and Russia once again flexing its muscles, all that Yankee pioneering spirit and Soviet subterfuge make for uncomfortably topical viewing. This - a reality far removed from Aldrin's - is what adult viewers are most likely to take away from the film.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Christopher Lloyd, David Gore, Philip Daniel Bolden, Adrienne Barbeau, Trevor Gagnon, Kelly Ripa, Nicollette Sheridan, Ed Begley Jr, Buzz Aldrin, Robert Patrick, Tim Curry
  • Director: Ben Stassen
  • Screen Writer: Domonic Paris
  • Writer (Story): Domonic Paris, Gina Gallo
  • Producer: Mimi Maynard, Charlotte Huggins, Gina Gallo, Caroline Van Iseghem
  • Composer: Ramin Djawadi

In a nutshell

Few would claim there are no flies on this one, but at least the outstanding 3D effects are some compensation for the dumbed-down inanity of everything else.

by Anton Bitel

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