When it comes to movies for young kids, certain standards hold true. Farts are funny. Kids saving the day are better than letting adults always rule, but in the end you still need your mom. Aliens are better when cute. Home takes these, and many other principles for children’s movies, and assembles them into a perfectly charming though uninventive family film.
The film follows the plight of an alien race, the Boov. The Boov are the best at running away when threatened. They run from danger, and cower when faced with their only enemy, the Gorg. Our main Boov is Oh (Jim Parsons). Oh does not have any friends, mainly due to his clumsy and awkwardly outgoing nature. When the Boov invade Earth and Oh tries to get to know his new Boov neighbors on this new planet, he finds more of the same attitude, which leaves him quite lonely.
Tip (Rihanna), short for “Gratuity,” is far lonelier, being the only human left in her city. When the Boov invaded, they moved all of the humans to a manufactured new homeland, but Tip escaped capture. Tip needs to find her mother, who has been taken to the new human land the Boo created. At the same time that Tip sets out, Oh’s clumsiness has gotten him into trouble and puts him in a position where he’s forced to correct his mistake. When Oh and Tip run into one another and realize that they cannot complete their objectives alone, they begrudgingly team up to help get where they need to go.
The uniting of two quarrelling characters only to have them inevitably realize that they have a lot in common and really care for one another is a tired plot in animated films. In that regard Home does not bring anything new to the medium, nor does it actively seek to break any new ground. But Home does do a solid job of being really darn cute and funny at a child’s level.
From the Boov’s squat stature to their changing colors and mixed up grammar, these aliens were designed to be adorable. The Boov speak coherently, but consistently mix up verb tense and subject-noun agreement. You can follow what they are saying, but they are always slightly off. (The cadence of their grammatical mistakes reminded me a lot of Yoda’s speech patterns.) The Boov are also honestly darn cute. They change skin color when embarrassed or happy. They walk on many tiny little legs and some even have expressive mustaches. Add in Tip’s cuddly cat, and the animators here were on to something in terms of lovability.
The humor in the film is also appropriate and perfectly suited for really young kids. There are slapstick gags that never result in any serious injuries. The chase sequences are done more for fun and laughs than for building tension. Also, the Boov’s misunderstanding of our everyday Earth objects can lead even a small theater going kid to feel slightly superior to the unintentionally silly Boov.
One dynamic of the humor that fell flat were the jokes which were delivered by the head Boov, Captain Smek (Steve Martin). His jokes were predictable, corny, and often not particularly pertaining to the scene in the film. I could appreciate that perhaps they were using Smek as a comic punching bag, and having him deliver bad jokes to show how bad he was in relating to others. But that did not feel like the intention behind them; his jokes were just not funny.
Though the majority of the characters in the film are Boov it is refreshing to see the human characters cast with some diversity. Tip, just like her voice actress Rhianna, is originally from Barbados. She and her mother, voiced by Jennifer Lopez, recently moved to America. We get to see their first experience with snow in one of the few videos that Tip managed to bring with her on her journey with Oh. Though all of the other named characters in the film do not reflect a similar diversity, it is still refreshing to see that the filmmaker did not shy away from making less traditional casting choices, as the film is richer for it.
Home is not going to be anyone’s new favorite film from Dreamworks. It will, however, serve as a really fun time out with your kids to the theater. It makes no missteps, and knows enough to focus on its strengths, and some darn cute Boov.
Director: Tim Johnson
Film Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: March 27, 2015
Distributor: DreamWorks Animation & 20th Century Fox