FLY ME TO THE MOON, rendered in 3-D animation rife with possibilities, has exactly one thing to recommend it, but it is something that is so completely enchanting, that it almost made up for the dreck that composes the rest of it. It’s something that I have never seen before and always wondered about. Specifically, it’s the view Neil Armstrong had as he opened the door of Apollo 11’s lunar lander just before exiting it to set the first human foot upon the moon. A supreme moment of human achievement given a wonderful new perspective, and, alas, stuck within a film that otherwise has all the canned and sticky sentimentality and squishy writing of a cut-rate greeting card. The film itself was probably supposed to be a variation on that idea of a new perspective of the first moon landing way back in 1969 and in and of itself, it’s not a bad idea. Certainly there is something to be said for a film aimed at kids that might get them all fired up about the space program and returning manned missions to other worlds. Subjecting them to bad filmmaking is another question entirely.
The fly in question is Nat, a young fly with a hankering for adventure. After listening one too many times to his grandfather’s stories about his own youthful exploits, he convinces two of his buddies, IQ, the one with the glass and the brain, and Scooter, the one with the weight problem and no brain, to hitch a ride on the Apollo 11 rocket to the moon. They join the trio of astronauts, Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, for the trip, somehow finding tiny little space suits on hand in the ready room, and an olive that will save the day just in the nick of time.
Sure, it’s kiddie film, but internal consistency would have been a nice touch. NASA, for example, is either completely and instantly accessible to the local flies, or it requires careful planning and subterfuge to penetrate. Decent animation for the humans of the story would have been nice, too. Instead, they lumber about in a jerky fashion as though they were direct imports from a proto-video game. Maybe Pong (I exaggerate very little here). The flies themselves are less fly-like than bot-like, with only wings and antennae to give away their insect inspiration. Added to that is writing that is flat, obvious, and irritating with its blunt and repeated stating of the obvious, and with its women reduced to caricatures who spend all their time fainting and/or preparing food for the menfly-folk. As for the maggots, they are smiling, roly-poly, and deeply creepy in a cuddly sort of way. There is a ridiculous subplot involving nasty Communist flies that has all the hallmarks of something added to pad the running time, and a completely unnecessary excursion up Amelia Earhart’s nose. Don’t ask. As to what is done with the African-American flies, the less said the better.
The 3-D is similarly inconsistent. The opening shots of a dragonfly that appears to leave the screen, pause in front of your face, and the buzz away over your head is terrific. The rendering of clear glass and of cellophane in three dimensions is similarly remarkable. On the other hand, Scooter, otherwise known as the excuse to lecture the audience on the evils of obesity, floating after globes of orange juice during a bout of weightlessness is singularly uninspired, never mind being not a little derivative of Homer Simpson doing a similar maneuver with potato chips in space several season back on his television show.
FLY ME TO THE MOON features Buzz Aldrin himself stepping onto the screen just before the credits roll to deny the involvement of any flies on his mission to the moon. It’s accompanied by actually clips of that mission and any one of them, video or still, is more exciting, more moving than anything rendered in animated 3-D.