The first computer-generated animated feature conceived and produced
exclusively for a 3-D release, Fly Me to the Moon also represents one
of the strangest misfires in recent animation history. The story
of three young flies who stow away on the Apollo 11 space flight, the
movie displays an earnestly old-fashioned attitude toward outer space
and adolescent exploration in general, but is a case of mode of
delivery completely overwhelming substance.
Set in 1969, the movie centers around headstrong, naturally inquisitive fly Nat (voiced by Trevor Gagnon), and his two pals, Scooter (voiced by David Gore) and I.Q. (voiced by Philip Bolden). Inspired by his Grandpa’s oft-told tale of stowing away on Amelia Earhart’s plane during her famed transatlantic solo flight, Nat hatches an impetuous plan to go to space by hiding out on the Apollo 11, not knowing that — unlike other rocket launches they’ve witnessed — this trip will last not minutes but almost a week.
As three NASA scientists on the ground grapple with a United States senator set to de-fund the space program based on the success of this mission, Nat’s family anxiously awaits his return. An old flame of Grandpa’s then arrives to tell him that the Russians are angry over losing the insect space race, and have sent mercenary Yegor (voiced by Tim Curry) to sabotage Apollo 11’s computer plans for re-entry. Against this backdrop, crises in space and on the ground must be averted in order for Nat, Scooter and I.Q. to return home safely.
In both execution (a lisp from Scooter renders his dialogue frequently difficult to understand) and conception, Fly Me to the Moon seems awkward and poorly thought out. Flatly drawn, the main characters seem nipped from Alvin and the Chipmunks (the intrepid explorer, the fat and fretful sidekick, and the one with glasses), and apart from the strangely integrated Cold War clash, the script is terribly unimaginative, peppering many scenes with tired, space-filling bits like female flies fainting. It also never resolves simple but important issues of narrative underpinning, like whether there is to be any human/fly interaction.
Most problematically, the character design is confusing, incongruous and unappealing. The creatures don’t really look like flies (in fact, they resemble modified Snorks, from the mid-’80s Hanna-Barbera animated series), and some are different colors, which is never explained. The humans within the film aren’t similarly stylized, however, which makes for a bit of clash. For the full, original review, from Screen International, click here. (Summit Entertainment, G, 85 minutes)