Film review: 'Roving Mars' is fun and exciting

Documentary may generate enthusiasm for another mission

Published: Friday, Jan. 27 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

ROVING MARS — *** 1/2 — Documentary minifeature on NASA's Mars Rover missions; shown in the large-screen format; rated G (nothing offensive).

Maybe I'm too hung up on all the lying memoirs out now, but I do wish "Roving Mars" would be a little more careful about labeling what's real and what isn't.

The movie assumes we can tell when we're being shown actual footage shot by a spacecraft sent to Mars and when we're being shown computer-animated guesses at what Mars looks like. Since the movie is aimed at young audiences, that's not a safe assumption.

But that issue aside, "Roving Mars" is an exceptional large-format film.

The first half is more like "Getting to Mars," a peek into the detailed work a huge cadre of astronauts — all of whom exhibit SpongeBob-like enthusiasm — must finish before the craft can head for Mars, a longshot trip that one astrobrain likens to "shooting a basketball from Los Angeles to New York and having it go through without touching the rim."

This stuff is all preamble, but it's exciting preamble, particularly when we're shown test shots of a giant parachute that keeps ripping apart when it's exposed to winds to simulate a Mars landing.

"Roving Mars" gets even better when it lands and begins to rove, gathering information about rocks that gets the NASA wonks really excited.

Their enthusiasm spreads to us, too, and if the mission of "Roving Mars" is to get us jazzed again about outer space, it's mission accomplished.

"Roving Mars" is rated G. Running time: 40 minutes.