Fly Me to the Moon

Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by the energetic, technologically advanced animated films like “WALL-E” and “Kung Fu Panda.” In the olden days, we’d have been delighted by “Fly Me to the Moon,” not even caring that it’s a flat, lifeless, uninspired 3D exercise. We’d have been thrilled just to see cartoon flies buzzing around in three dimensions!

Those days are gone, though, and “Fly Me to the Moon” cannot hope to compete against modern animated films — you know, the ones with interesting stories, lovable characters, and clever dialogue. This is the first feature-length film from director Ben Stassen, who has previously made several 3D IMAX shorts (including “Haunted Castle” and “Wild Safari 3D”), where the point is to show off the 3D technology, not to tell stories. That’s fine when you’re talking about 40-minute IMAX samples. But when you double the running time and move into the multiplex, you have to make a real MOVIE. A “look what I can do!” 3D demo reel won’t cut it.

“Fly Me to the Moon” is about three young houseflies who stow away on the Apollo 11 mission and accompany Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins to the moon in July 1969. They come back with them, too. The end.

I’m really not condensing the story much, either. That’s about the extent of the action — well, except for a weird subplot where some Russian flies are angry that the American flies have bested them, and send operatives to try to sabotage the mission. But that subplot is so bizarre and senseless that I’m going to pretend it doesn’t exist.

The three junior flies are normal Nat (voice of Trevor Gagnon), nerdy I.Q. (Philip Bolden), and fat Scooter (David Gore). The flies do point out how uncommon it is for an insect to be obese, but they don’t seem to notice that each of them has only four limbs rather than the usual six. Scooter is chubby primarily because it makes mediocre screenwriter Domonic Paris’ job easier: When you have a fat character, all you have to do is make all his lines be about food. Someone mentions how great it is to be back on “terra firma”; Scooter says, “Terra firma? Is that a dessert?” Presto! Instant lame comedy!

The three fly boys live with their extended families in a junkyard, where Nat’s old grandpa (Christopher Lloyd) regales them with stories of his own aviating adventures of yesteryear. In a flashback, we see Grandpa as a younger fly, accompanying Amelia Earhart on her historic Atlantic crossing and saving her life by flying up her nose when she falls asleep at the controls. That sequence ought to be funny, but it isn’t, because there’s no energy to it. The animation is slow and lugubrious, as if everyone is moving underwater, and the whole film is like that.

Dull dialogue, a dull story, and dull animation. What’s left? Ah, yes — the fact that it’s in 3D. That’s definitely true. No question, the objects in this movie do appear to move in three dimensions. If you want to endure 80 minutes of that — and nothing else — then be my guest.

D+ (1 hr., 24 min.; G, appropriately so.)