July 18, 2002 -- "Butt-Ugly Martians: Hoverboard Heroes" is a DVD collection of three half-hour cartoon TV episodes aimed at children aged 4 to 8. The DVD is due to be released on July 30. I doubt that older kids, particularly teens, will find the episodes clever or exciting enough. The series is certainly tame enough for just about any audience. There are no real threats or violence. The villains are even more inept than the heroes.
The main characters are three Martians, the fearless leader, B-Bop, technical wizard 2-T-FRU-T, and the agreeable Do-Wa-Diddy. They are sent to earth to conquer it, but they enjoy the culture, especially the junk food so much, they decide to protect the earth instead. The Martians become friends and allies of earth teens Mike, Cedric and Angela. The villains are led by Emperor Bog and his clever henchman, Dr. Damage. Another main character, Alien Hunter Stoat Muldoon (voice by the 82-year-old Robert Stack of "Untouchables" fame), is at times a protagonist, other times he is an antagonist. Mostly, he is just inept. Muldoon is a character of honor, however, and is always well-intentioned. Muldoon also has a young admirer and sometime sidekick named Ronald. There is also a robotic dog who seems to be the smartest character of the lot. Most of the voices are done by veteran voice talents.
The three episodes on the DVD are "Damage's Little Girl," featuring infiltration of earth by Martian femme fatale Shaboom-Shaboom, "Playback/Payback" in which false reports sent to Emperor Bog about their attack on earth backfires, and "Everybody Loves Angie," in which Angie is captured by a love-struck alien. The stories are set about 50 years in the future, when kids have things like anti-gravity hoverboards. All the episodes are of the "Perils of Pauline" variety with some kind of threat to a person or place with cliffhangers leading into the commercial breaks. The Martians then rescue the kids, or vice-versa, and there is always some mildly amusing humor and a happy ending. At some point, the Martians chant "B.K.M." (for butt-kicking mode) to transform themselves into fighting machines to vanquish some bad guys, usually robots. Since the series is currently playing on the Nickelodeon channel, the best way to tell if you or your kids are going to like it well enough to buy the DVD is to watch some episodes. If you or the kids like the series, then you might consider buying the DVDs.
The DVD is in full-screen format and comes with English, Spanish and French subtitles available. Bonus materials include character files (of the three earth-defending Martians), DVD-ROM video game Martian Boot Camp demo and a theatrical trailer for "The Mummy's Quest for the Lost Scrolls." This DVD rates a C.
"Butt Ugly Martians" ran in England from November 2001 until April 2002. The defunct company that distributed the film, Just Group, was recently purchased by Mike Young Productions of Los Angeles. There is reportedly a movie deal in the works and there is talk about creating 26 more episodes of the series for a total of 52. Whether or not any of this comes to pass is anyone's guess. The artwork is in a fairly well-drawn 3-D computer graphics format similar to the Pixar Studios style. It was probably close to state-of-the-art when it first hit the airwaves. It will probably need some updating if more episodes are to be produced. In particular, the walking movements and mouth movements are stiff and unnatural. If the series is to appeal to kids in the 9 to 12 age group and higher, there will have to be more clever jokes and more action, but if those changes are made it might lose some of its charm and innocence in the eyes of younger viewers.
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