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by on October 16, 2010
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Click here for showtimes for “Mars”

A quirky animated sci-fi romantic comedy, “Mars” is the sort of treat you only get at film festivals.

Think about it: when was the last time you saw an animated film aimed at adults? Off the top of my head, the last one I recall is 2006’s “A Scanner Darkly,” which, coincidentally (or perhaps not) empl0ys a similar style of animation “drawn” over live-action.

“Mars” is the story of a manned mission to the Red Planet with a three-man crew: Charlie Brownville (Mark Duplass, “Greenberg”), Casey Cook (Zoe Simpson) and Hank Morrison (Paul Gordon). Several years earlier an accident (which, it turns out, was caused by an accumulation of germs on the landing module when a handler sneezed on it) doomed the mission and lost the rover.

Years later The President (Kinky Friedman, yes, THAT Kinky Friedman) decides it’s time to send men to Mars, and it’s on. The trio of astronauts set off for Mars, and end up learning things about each other, and themselves, and a little something about the folks back home as well.

Along the way there is excitement, interesting but airy and light-hearted even in the face of extreme danger, full of whimsy and fun. At least two romances develop,  and this dominates the second half of the film (let’s say this sci fi is light on the science and heavy on the fiction).

The simplistic animation adds a layer of style to the film, giving it a surreal sort of vibe that carries especially well once Mars actually figures into the narrative. It’s a perfect example of the changes in mood and feel that background can provide a film. Without it “Mars” would have been an entirely different film.

Also in the cast is Cynthia Watros (“Lost”), and the acting is fine all around. Friedman’s president is a Texan, but to his credit writer/director Geoff Marslett steers away from the obvious reference he could have made and directed Friedman to be a more amiable, well-meaning lunk.

“Mars” is one long, strange trip worth taking.

MARS – The Movie [HD Trailer] from Geoff Marslett on Vimeo.