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1 review, 3 user ratings

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Home (2015)
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by Jay Seaver

"Makes for a very happy Smekday indeed."
4 stars

There seems to be an element of forced whimsy to "Home", both as the movie starts and from the advertising that preceded its release, like DreamWorks has gone back to when it was desperately trying to recreate the success of "Shrek" and throwing any two misfits together in the most calculated way possible. It soon reveals itself as something much better than that, full of entertaining moments, good intentions, and *genuine* whimsy.

It's a story of alien invasion told from one of the invaders' point of view. That would be Oh (voice of Jim Parsons), disliked by the rest of the Boov for both his clumsiness and enthusiasm. The Boov have taken Earth peacefully, relocating humanity to Australia, although 13-year-old Tip Tucci (voice of Rihanna) has somehow been left behind in New York. After Oh's latest mishap threatens to put the Gorg fleet that the Boov have been fleeing, Oh and Tip wind up on the run together, although they're inclined to go in different directions.

That's the plot of of a thriller, except for one thing: The Boov, by and large, are not very bright, with Captain Smek (voice of Steve Martin) especially dim despite the adulation heaped upon him by his people. Even the ones who prove surprisingly capable are people to stumbling just short of their goal, usually in a way that provides some fine slapstick. Even if they weren't, though, the movie is aggressively non-violent: There is never any malice shown toward humanity by the Boov, and the story is set up so that nobody would actually gain from another person being hurt. Smek and the Boov vandalize the heck out of Earth, but one has to work a bit to find their bubble-based technology particularly ominous; it's all lighter than air.

Having everything float means that the animators at DreamWorks can do a lot of their trademark great use of 3D, which gives them a lot more corners to fill with whatever the Boov can attach an anti-gravity device to, and there is some genuine delight in how Oh takes the car Tip is driving and doesn't just make it a classic flying car, but adds more color to its bright red body and has it trail happy bubbles rather than stay aloft with hissing retro-rockets. The Boov change color with their emotions in a way that isn't subtle but which quickly turns into expressiveness rather than a gimmick because it happens all the time rather than just when the filmmakers want to make a point.

The soundtrack is just as poppy as the visuals; both Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez do voice work in the movie and have tracks on the soundtrack, although it isn't a musical where characters burst into song or selections even pay over a montage. That musical style transfers to the score as well, and it helps set the tone of the film as modern and exciting but not built around conflict. It's not quite the traditional soundtrack for an animated adventure, but it's a good fit.

The sights and sounds being impressive extends to the character design, although the film may not quite have the excellent ensemble it deserves, depending on what you think of Oh. There are a lot of "Boov grammar is not like English grammar!" jokes, with Oh talking more like a cat-photo caption than any of the rest, and how funny folks find that sort of humor can vary a lot. Jim Parsons sometimes has trouble communicating that Oh is supposed to be more emotional than other Boov, though he had some good moments. Steve Martin seems to have similar difficulties navigating this dialogue as Smek, since this sort of obliviously egotistical character should be right in his wheelhouse. At least Rihanna makes a more-than-acceptable spunky tween; she and the animators both do a great job of communicating that this is a smart, confident kid in a situation that most adults couldn't handle and this a little bit scared even if she's mostly excited.

It's also kind of cool that Tip is given an immigrant background of her own. For all that director Tim Johnson and the writers (working on a tangent from Adam Rex's The True Meaning of Smekday if not quite adapting it) make the usual message about it being okay and even beneficial to be a misfit very clear, it's kind of impressive that they make certain pains to be clear what they mean by that. Being a newcomer isn't bad, but being presumptive with others' property and dismissive of their capabilities is; not only is Tip described as having "beautiful brown skin", but crowd scenes in the human towns come a lot closer to matching the actual demographics of the planet than the usual crowd of white guys with an occasional exception. We shouldn't have to be impressed by that, but it's still refreshing enough to be noted and encouraged.

A lot about "Home" falls into that category of being much more well-done than it initially appears. It's colorful, goofy, loose, and friendly, but put together with enough care that even if the adults bringing their kids find out fairly simple, they will still probably smile a lot and disapprove of very little.

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originally posted: 04/04/15 11:24:07
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User Comments

7/20/15 Charles Tatum Fun stuff, with a flawless voice cast 4 stars
4/10/15 marc thomas brilliant family film with brilliant leading cast 5 stars
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  27-Mar-2015 (PG)
  DVD: 28-Jul-2015


  DVD: 28-Jul-2015

Directed by
  Tim Johnson

Written by
  Tom J. Astle
  Matt Ember

  Jim Parsons
  Jennifer Lopez
  Steve Martin
  Matt Jones
  Dominique Monfery

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