*** (out of 5)
March 27, 2015
Jim Parsons as OH
Rihanna as GRATUITY “TIP” TUCCI
Steve Martin as CAPTAIN SMEK
Jennifer Lopez as LUCY
Matt Jones as KYLE
Directed by: Tim Johnson
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Let me start off by saying that I like “The Big Bang Theory.” That’s not a subversive statement to make, but I think it’s necessary considering how many people I know who are geeks and nerds that absolutely abhor the series. And along with their disdain for this little sit com, there’s a healthy dislike for Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper.
I’m not going to expend the digital ink to defend “The Big Bang Theory,” but rather I point this out because I think a person’s opinion of Jim Parsons will definitely color their opinion of the animated film “Home,” just as many people who don’t like Larry the Cable Guy did not like Pixar’s “Cars” movies at all. But if you’re like me, and you actually think Parsons is pretty funny, you can be very forgiving for “Home.”
Based on a children’s book, “Home” tells the story of a race of aliens known as the Boov, who are searching for a new planet to colonize. They settle on Earth and quickly relocate all the human residents to a nice stretch of homestead on the Australian continent. However, one of the Boov known as Oh (Parsons) accidentally alerts their sworn enemy the Gorg, which will hunt them down on Earth and destroy the entire planet. Oh teams up with Tip (Rihanna), a teenager who is looking for her mother when she was left behind during the relocation. They form an unlikely friendship and hope to track down the mother and help stop the Gorg from attacking.
At its heart, “Home” is really just a kids movie, and for that purpose it works well. Children respond well to the colorful imagery and the cute aliens that look like marshmallows. Mix in a modern pop soundtrack and some directed potty humor, and you’ve got a film that the family can enjoy. Forget the fact that this is a terrifying concept of aliens tearing apart families and taking over planets only to let them be laid to waste by the Gorg; it’s the most adorable alien invasion you’ll likely see.
So on the surface, “Home” works. I took my six-year-old, and he loved it. He is the target market.
However, there are some awkward elements to the movie. From a filmmaking perspective, the marketing department had a little too much control with Rihanna as a brand. Sure, Chris Brown doesn’t show up and beat her in the middle or anything, and being edited together in a sound booth allowed her to actually come across with coherent dialogue, as opposed to the nonsense that she spewed in the film “Battleship.” It’s her off-tone musical number forced into the film that just don’t work.
Now, I’m not a Rihanna fan, and I doubt I could identify her singing on a track let alone name any single she has released. However, the songs throughout the film that are clearly highlighted to sell iTunes downloads simply don’t fit the tone of the film, and often clash with the scene at hand.
However, looking deeper into the film, “Home” stumbles over some pretty heavy issues that you wouldn’t expect for a kids movie, including colonization, manifest destiny, internment camps and even genocide. Sure, these are glossed over for the sake of a cute family film, and I did not get any awkward questions from my six-year-old on the way home. However, it’s hard to ignore these as an adult.
Still, for what it’s setting out to be, “Home” works. It’s got a lot of physical humor and bright colors. And sci-fi fans might wonder if the Boov president’s name “Smek” was a subtle nod to all the smeg we see on “Red Dwarf.” I still don’t know the answer to that, but I like to think it was an Easter egg of sorts.
In the end, one of the things I appreciated about “Home” is that it’s a different movie. It’s not just a rehash of a fairy tale or trying to compete with the charm of Pixar. DreamWorks animation has been offering some unique storylines lately, even if they do come from existing source material. Not every one is a home run, but at the very least, you get something different, and that’s definitely worth something.