September 5, 2008

High Flying ; Houseflies’ Mission to the Moon Needs De-Bugging


"Fly Me to the Moon" is the first feature-length computer- animated 'toon made specifically for 3-D. This is a good thing, because the movie would be unwatchable without it.

Director Ben Stassen, a veteran of various 3-D IMAX movies, knows what he's doing when it comes to technological trickery that expands the depth of field. He's not quite as adept, however, at enlivening Domonic Paris' pedestrian screenplay with visual wit or humor.

This story about three young houseflies who sneak aboard the Apollo 11 mission in the summer of 1969 is a plodding, by-the- numbers affair. It's the kind of picture that assigns characters a single identifiable trait -- the fat one, the smart one, the dreamer -- and repeats it ad nauseam. Although the central premise is clever, and the film even throws in some villains in the form of Soviet houseflies who want to sabotage the American mission, the thinness of the characterizations keeps the story from ever leaving the launching pad.

What saves "Fly Me to the Moon" from being a total wash is the actual mission itself. In its last half-hour, director Stassen puts all the housefly nonsense aside, as if admitting how lame it all really is, and turns the film into a quasi-documentary, re-creating familiar footage of man's first walk on the moon in beautiful 3-D animation (astronaut Buzz Aldrin even provides his voice). That long, hypnotic sequence feels like your reward for having sat through the rest of "Fly Me to the Moon," which is a tougher endurance test than anything NASA could cook up.



2 stars (out of 4)

STARRING: Voices of Trevor Gagnan, Kelly Ripa, Philip Daniel Bolden, David Gore, Christopher Lloyd, Nicollette Sheridan, Tim Curry and Buzz Aldrin


RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes


THE LOWDOWN: Three ambitious flies aim to be the first lunar insects by hitching an unauthorized ride on Apollo 11.

Originally published by McClatchy Newspapers.

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