Parents can rest easy: For those tots convinced by “Fly Me to the Moon” that three talking houseflies stowed away on Apollo 11 and saved the moon mission from certain disaster, Buzz Aldrin himself appears at the end of this 3-D animated adventure to straighten them out. It’s a bizarre moment in a film whose sense of humor is more antique than its 1969 setting. Timing might otherwise be golden, though, as the off-the-wall adventure/comedy is poised to fill the kid-fare vacuum between “Wall-E” and “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.”
Otherwise, it’s a wingless exercise, despite a rather heartening attitude toward space travel that will introduce young auds to the glory that was NASA in the ’60s. Setting things up via mock-dated, black-and-white animated newsclips, pic shows the use of chimps in space (lots of “Space Chimps” around recently) and the progress of the Mercury-Apollo programs that led to the planned moonwalk in the summer of ’69. Aldrin, Michael Collins and even Neil Armstrong are represented here in animated form, and it’s as close to the reclusive Armstrong as anyone’s likely to get.
Buoyed by period music — Canned Heat, “Groovin’ ” and, of course, “Fly Me to the Moon” — the wholly digitalized feature about three high-flying pests begins with Nat (voiced by Trevor Gagnon), who’s grown up listening to his Grandpa’s (Christopher Lloyd) stories about saving Amelia Earhart during her pioneering solo transatlantic flight in 1932.
Given that the life expectancy of a housefly is less than two months, crusty Grandpa is something of a pioneer himself. But his stories stir his grandson’s imagination, and Nat enlists buddies IQ (Philip Daniel Bolden) and Scooter (David Gore) to come along and take a space ride. They are accompanied at one point by Strauss’ “Blue Danube” (a piece the young flies might have heard a year earlier, had they been Kubrick fans).
“Dreamers get swatted,” Nat’s mother (Kelly Ripa) warns her son — although Grandpa’s always been one, and look how long he’s lasted. Grandpa gets a blast from his well-traveled romantic past when Nadia (Nicollette Sheridan) shows up from Russia to let them know the Soviet Space Program, Fly Division, is upset that the U.S. has beaten them in getting their insect life to the moon. And the Russians have sent the nefarious Yegor (Tim Curry) to sabotage the U.S. moon mission. Had “Fly Me to the Moon” been a bit more “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” all this would still have made no sense at all, but it would have been a lot funnier.
Pic is a sort-of history lesson, a sort of comedy, a PSA for childhood obesity (Scooter is dangerously fixated on food) and a 3-D toon that seems more artificial than realistic. When the requisite objects pop off the screen, they don’t do so in a way that expands the ordinary 2-D constraints, but rather in a way that reminds you of those constraints in the first place — which seems contrary to what a 3-D film is meant to do.
And for all its computerized ambitions, “Fly Me to the Moon” is a curiously retro project. The animated characters are stiff and limited, and seem reminiscent of such relatively primitive ’60s cartoons as “Crusader Rabbit,” albeit with the dubious advantage of being three-dimensional.
Production values are adequate. Because pic was fully rendered via computer, no cinematographer or editor is credited.