Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Home

by Patrick Bromley
Please enjoy four quadrant animated children family movie film! Or don't.

If you weren't already aware from the trailers and marketing, Home is a new animated film from Dreamworks that should be put into a time capsule to represent exactly where middle-of-the-road children's entertainment is in 2015. It doesn't accurately reflect all modern kid's movies because it's not fair to compare it to the movies that Pixar (or even the current incarnation of Disney Animation) is doing. But this is the exact kind of movie that means well when it isn't cynically throwing in bathroom humor for the adults or playing Rihanna songs on the soundtrack for corporate synergy. It will entertain kids for two hours (my 6-year old son had a great time) and possibly provide a distraction when it comes out on DVD and Blu-ray, but it's not the kind of movie that's going to have any real life ahead of it.
A small, purple alien race called the Boov invade Earth as a means of hiding from an enemy that is hunting them through the galaxy. Relocating the entirety of the planet's population to a single island and giving them everything they think they want, the Boov -- led by Captain Smek (Steve Martin) -- move in and take over. One little girl, Tip (Rihanna), manages to stay behind and hide out in New York while waiting for her mother (who was taken by the Boov and voiced by Jennifer Lopez) to return. She eventually teams up with Oh (Jim Parsons), a Boov outcast who is disliked by his entire race, in a road trip that's mutually beneficial: Oh agrees to help Tip find her mom and, in the process, gets to hide out from the rest of the Boov who are looking for him after he has accidentally emailed the entire galaxy -- including their sworn enemy -- their new whereabouts.
Home is colorful. It touts the benefits of looking past each other's differences and the importance of friendship. It is, on a surface level, harmless. It offers a heroine who is not white. Jim Parsons does his usual brand of comically literate fussiness, which he has perfected after eight seasons and multiple Emmy wins for The Big Bang Theory. (Is there a chance he will ever be seen as anything else? I suspect not.) These are its best qualities.

Everything else about the film (based on a children's book called The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex) feels like it should simply be released as Computer Animated Children's Film: The Movie. The idea of an alien race whose two greatest attributes are their conformity and their cowardice is kind of funny but never really explored -- Oh doesn't stand out because he refuses to do either, but because he is irritating. The story of Tip (because her full name is Gratuity Tucci, because we are all going to be dead someday) and Oh flying around the globe in a car powered by slushy is unique and lends itself to some neat visuals, but it's mostly used as an excuse for them to listen to Rihanna songs and for Tip to teach Oh to dance so he can say hacky stuff like "My hands are in the air like I just do not care!" And the adults laugh because they "get it" and the kids laugh because their skulls aren't fully formed.
As long as you're willing to accept the fact that it feels a lot like generic studio product that's partially designed to sell copies of a Rihanna "concept album" being released in conjunction with the film, Home is basically harmless. We live in a time, however, when more than ever animation is a storytelling choice and not its own genre, meaning there are plenty of animated films worth recommending to adults just as much as to children. Home is not such a movie. It's strictly for the kids, and while adults might not be bored during it (I wasn't...until its third or fourth ending), we should be going to the movies for reasons other than killing two hours. Home tries. It's bright and busy and expensive, full of music and dancing and adorable characters to be turned into toys. Its hands are in the air, but I just do not care.


  1. This is basically what I expected when I saw the horrible trailer, but I had hope it would pull a How To Train Your Dragon or Tangled and be much better than the marketing. Alas.
    Still glad that there's finally a little more diversity in CG animated movies. Step up your game, other studios!

    1. The trailer did look terrible and seemed to last forever when I saw it in front of Cinderella. I have no desire to see the movie whatsoever.

  2. These generic animation writers are perpetually stuck in the 90's. Lines like "throw your hands in the air like you just don't care" kind of make me physically sick when I hear them used in modern animated movies. That song is at least twenty years old. Rap and hip hop songs always seem to take that amount of time to filter down to the hacky writer dialog trash bin. But I guess kids are quicker to pick up on and respond to tired cliches.

    1. Oh god we're gonna get "It's Iggy Iggs" references in twenty years aren't we?