Film Review – Home
DreamWorks’ animated adventure Home (2015) is the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy. It’s colorful and sugary sweet, but disappears almost immediately after consumption. There’s not much substance going on here, and whatever emotion it tries to reach toward remains on the surface at best. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. The targeted audience – which I presume is children no older than age 8 – will most likely get a kick out of the pretty visuals, high energy, and overall silliness. As a grown adult, watching this reminded me of those old Saturday morning cartoon shows where you kick back and relax for a few hours, but as soon as it’s over you forget about it and move on with the rest of your day.
Tim Johnson directs Tom J. Asle and Matt Ember’s screenplay about two unlikely characters forming a unique bond. On one side is Oh (Jim Parsons), a member of an alien race known as the Boov. Looking like a combination of squids and dye-colored marshmallows, the Boov are a kindly but cowardly race. They wear their feelings on their skin – literally: when they’re mad they turn red, yellow for scared, green if they’re telling a lie, etc. Instead of facing challenges head on, the Boov are known to run away. When we meet them, the Boov are in the middle of escaping their latest enemy, heading toward Earth as their next destination.
Oh seems to be a rather nice guy, but for whatever reason other Boovs do not like him. This is never really explained in the film; sure he may be overbearing and something of a klutz, but he always has good intentions. It’s interesting to see how nice Oh is when his race comes to Earth in an attempt to relocate all humanity and populate the rest of the planet themselves. Incorporating a clever use of bubbles as both their mode of transportation and weaponry, the Boov invade in possibly the nicest way ever: placing all humanity in Australia right next to some conveniently erected theme parks. After a mishap with his email (yes, his email), Oh finds himself on the run from the Boov police.
And that’s where we meet the human character, Gratuity Tucci. Yes, there is someone here named “Gratuity” and guess what her nickname is? That’s right, “Tip.” Voiced by Rihanna, Tip is a resourceful little girl, who escaped the initial relocation process and desperately wants to reunite with her mother Lucy (Jennifer Lopez). Rihanna’s voice performance as Tip is…adequate. That’s not to say her voice work is bad, but it’s not as dynamic as the other actors. It has an even-keeled, almost monotone quality. When Tip spoke, I was never convinced I was hearing a character; Rihanna kept coming through. We can sense Rihanna reciting the dialogue off the page instead of making the words appear spontaneous.
With both Oh and Tip on their own, the two decide to join forces to help each other through their respective predicaments. Driving a specialized flying car modified by Oh, the two (along with Tip’s cat named Pig, har har) go on a globe-hopping trip that takes them from the U.S. to Paris and Australia. Along the way, of course, they get to learn about each other and their races. This makes the narrative meat of the film. The way the two gradually see eye to eye echoes similar past work. It’s derivative of everything from E.T. (1982) to Lilo & Stitch (2002). That’s not necessarily a fault, but because it fails to establish its own identity do the comparisons stick out. There’s nothing that unique or inspired here – for a studio that has made progressive animated features like the How to Train Your Dragon series, this outing has them playing way too safe.
But still, if the intention was to make something that can occupy the attention of little kids and offer parents a quick respite, then the mission was accomplished. The production design and animation has a palette of soft colors – lots of light purples, blues and greens. The plot is straightforward, and the lesson about accepting differences and having the courage to stand up for one’s self stick out with crystal clarity. It was also nice to see a multi-cultural cast. In a story about learning to exist with other people, making one of the protagonists black (the first time it’s been done in a DreamWorks Animation feature) and female came as a nice, forward-thinking choice. This will surely be a fun way to spend a few hours for kids, while subtly teaching them a little bit too.
It’s safe to say that Home wasn’t made for me. The cutesy, bubbly, overly sincere approach was obviously geared for younger audiences. It didn’t fail at what it was meant to do, but did it in a generic way. Nothing sticks out – it comes in, does its assigned task, and then fizzles into nothingness.