Imagine E.T. if he needed tons of Ritalin. Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin and Jennifer Lopez lend their voices to DreamWorks Animation’s Home.
Director – Tim Johnson
Screenplay – Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember
Based on the book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
Producer – Suzanne Buirgy, Chris Jenkins & Mireille Soria
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
A lively yet clumsy alien race known as the Boov, led by Captain Smek, (voiced by Steve Martin) have invaded Earth to hide from their enemy. Although they’ve made the planet their new home, they’re at least kind enough to relocate the human race to Australia.
So that’s seven billion people plucked up from six continents and crammed in together on the smallest one. Whatever, it’s an animated film.
Meanwhile, “Tip” Tucci (voiced by Rihanna) has managed to escape the capture; however, her mother Lucy (voiced by Jennifer Lopez) wasn’t so lucky. Determined to reunite with her mom, Tip ventures out to find her and is accompanied by an exiled Boov named Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons) who may know Lucy’s whereabouts.
Fan of TV’s The Big Bang Theory know Jim Parsons as the brilliant but socially awkward scientist Sheldon Cooper, a role that won him four Emmy Awards in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Now, after eight seasons on the hit CBS show and a handful of minor supporting roles, Parsons finally gets an opportunity to lead a film in Home, the next animated offering from DreamWorks.
And the result is a mixed bag.No one can question the animators’ efforts here. Since 1998’s Antz (which was co-directed by Home director Tim Johnson), DreamWorks has been one of the best animated studios around, and Home has a detailed and brightly colored look that many will find appealing. A nice animated touch is given to the Boov characters with their constant color and shape-shifting appearances that reflect their current moods. The downside, though, is that Home is as derivative and predictable as a film can get. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out where each plot point is heading, and chances are even your kids will be seeing what’s coming from a mile away. There’s some fun to be had here and there, but it lacks the pop that’s found in the most entertaining animated films. Coming from the same studio that gave us such imaginative endeavors as Antz, Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Over the Hedge and How to Train Your Dragon, you expect better and are left wishing the filmmakers put as much effort into making the story spring to life as they did the animation. Playing the odd and idiosyncratic Sheldon Cooper’s been Jim Parsons’s bread and butter since 2007, but his success there doesn’t translate as well here with Oh, the eager to please Boov who clearly borrowed his speech patterns from Yoda. I can’t fault Parsons for a lack of effort; he goes all in with this character, and at times the over-enthusiasm pays off for a laugh or two (a scene involving Oh using his password to stop an urgent email from reaching the villain earned a laugh out loud moment from me). However, although Oh is as harmless of a character as they come for kids – who’ll get a kick out of his over-the-top goofiness – adults will find that a little bit of his cheeriness on overdrive goes a long way. As clingy and desperate to be liked as he is, you kinda see why the rest of the Boov nation were so quick to banish him. Pop star Rihanna, on the other hand, is really good voicing “Tip”, which is the nickname for her real name Gratuity. Tip has a predictable character arc that begins with her despising the Boovs and – well, do you really need me to finish telling you how it all ends? Yet the character herself is strong, smart and impossible to not like, and Rihanna provides Tip with a good dose of humor and sweetness. Yeah, the bar was set fairly low with her tour de force thespian contribution to Battleship, but it’s fine work done by her here regardless. Oh, by the way, who the hell names their child after voluntary money gifted to service workers? I think I’ll name my kids Tithe, Itemized Deduction and Roth IRA. It’s been a long time since comic legend Steve Martin turned in a funny performance, but he hams it up to great effect as Captain Smek, the vain and incompetent leader of the Boovs who prides himself on his leadership by ironically touting his cowardice. Home is beautifully animated, but its routine, standard narrative and Jim Parsons’s earnest but mostly overdone performance hold it back from sitting in good company with DreamWorks Animation’s best. Still, this isn’t the train wreck that Shark Tale was, and the fine voice work by Rihanna and Steve Martin, as well as the splendid colors and animated setpieces can provide a decent amount of fun for those with kids who are looking for a 90-minute babysitter to keep them occupied.
I give Home a C+ (★★½).
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