Grade: D-

It seems to be the summer for animated movies to reference “2001: A Space Odyssey.” First “Wall•E” based almost half of its story on a riff on Kubrick’s film, and now “Fly Me to the Moon” includes an anti-gravity floating sequence set to—you guessed it—Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz. At least “Space Chimps” didn’t give in to the temptation.

In any event the allusion is of no help to this dismal kiddie flick about three houseflies that stow away aboard the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar mission. The big selling point is that it’s in 3-D, but even those effects are mediocre. No more so, however, than every other aspect of the movie—including the stiff animation, reminiscent of the drabbest stuff on Saturday morning TV.

The most distinctive voice in the cast comes from Christopher Lloyd, who plays the grandpa fly, an old geezer who constantly tells his grandson Nat (Trevor Gagnon) about his youthful adventures (saving Amelia Earhardt from crashing, for example, by awakening her when she fell asleep at the controls), unwittingly encouraging the youngster’s desire to tag along on them moon flight. Nat takes along his best pals, intellectual IQ (Philip Daniel Bolden) and overweight Scooter (David Gore). Meanwhile his mom (Kelly Ripa) worries after she discovers where her boy has gone.

The insects’ actual trip certainly remains an earthbound affair despite its destination; their adventures aboard the spacecraft and interaction with animated version of the astronauts are incredibly slow-paced, unimaginative, and tedious. But even they are preferable to the misguided effort to liven things up with a Cold War subplot back home, in which Yegor (Tim Curry), a nefarious Commie fly-spy from the old Soviet Union, tries to sabotage the return flight of the spacecraft, only to be stymied by Grandpa and his old girlfriend, defector Nadia (Nicollette Sheridan). For a moment it appears that this story thread might venture into “Rocky & Bullwinkle” territory, but it falls far shot of the inventiveness level of the old Jay Ward TV program. And a coda in which Buzz Aldren shows up to assure kids that his flight was actually uncontaminated by buggy stowaways is a bizarre addendum to a tale whose historical background will certainly be a mystery to the toddlers at whom this movie is aimed. (Given the level of historical illiteracy in this country, it will probably be terra incognita to many of their older siblings, and even parents, as well.)

“Fly Me to the Moon” might have been juiced up with some bright dialogue, but there’s nary a line in the whole thing that has the slightest glimmer of wit, and even the choice of songs to accompany the action (including the title ditty) is uninspired. And the lethargic pace adopted by director Ben Stassen makes the lack of imagination all the more evident.

In the ever-expanding sea of drab animated kidflicks, this is one of the worst; it makes you want to reach for a can of Raid. The only consolation is that its lifespan in theatres will certainly be far less than that of an actual housefly.