In the end (yes, I’m starting there), as I have said before, the best movies for kids are enjoyable for parents as well. DreamWorks’ latest film, “Home,” certainly will please young audiences, but it may do less for the older crowd.
Starring Jim Parsons as the voice of Oh, a member of an alien race called the Boov, “Home” is about an alien invasion which finds the entirety of humanity—or nearly the entirety—relocated. One plucky young girl, Tip (Rihanna) has managed to escape the Boov repopulation and, with the help of Oh, embarks on a quest to find her mother’s whereabouts following the repopulation.
Directed by Tim Johnson, the movie is bright, colorful, and loud. It is full of easy jokes, a few heartwarming moments, and just a little bit of fear. It also repeatedly passes up the opportunity to truly explore anything and ends up feeling much more like a series of bits thrown together rather than a single cohesive movie.
The Boov, who are by default purple, change colors to express how they feel. They go red when they’re angry, green when they are lying, etc. It seems like, particularly when the movie has a lost child at the center, a child who ought to be absolutely terrified about what’s happening all around her but isn’t, that an exploration of emotions would be easy to have. After all, you have a kid in extraordinary circumstances who has to be feeling all sorts of new and different feeling things and creatures who outwardly expresses their emotions. Plus, Oh is an outcast Boov who can never seem to do anything right and is responsible for an action that may wind up causing the extinction of his entire race.
It is a tale fraught with emotion. Or, it should be.
It isn’t. There is no deeper understanding of emotion ever reached, nor really even discussed. Instead, the movie focuses on a flying car, pretty colors, and lots of jokes based on misunderstandings. It is a decision made infinitely more frustrating by the fact that “Home” is perfectly organized to do so much more. Watching it unfold on the big screen, you will big able to pick out the moments where Johnson and company should have gone for a deeper understanding, where they should have pushed the story to have greater resonance.
So, there you have it, the biggest problem in the movie. On the upside, there is the voice cast. Parsons and Rihanna are joined by Jennifer Lopez and Steve Martin, who play Tip’s mom and the leader of the Boov, respectively. While the former isn’t given terribly much to do as the film never really strives to reconcile emotion and Tip’s mom’s story involves her desperately wanting to be reunited with her daughter (a necessarily emotional tale in a movie that eschews emotion), Martin is utterly hysterical. Unfortunately, Martin is hysterical in part because he plays the leader of the Boov and the character is completely incompetent. That would be okay except that the Boov are insanely advanced technologically speaking and clearly hugely intelligent… except that they are not. Each and every Boov the audience meets is, to some degree, a fool. How could they possibly have all this technology? How could they possibly have gotten as far as they have? Did the Boov steal and repurpose all the technology they have from other alien races? There is a story there which isn’t told and while kids won’t be troubled by it, adults most certainly will, it leads to too many holes in the story.
Yet, despite all its shortcomings, it is impossible to walk away from the movie without a least the smallest hint of a smile on your face. Tip and Oh make a great pair and their interactions are enjoyable even if they never go as deeply as they ought.
“Home” is, in the briefest sort of summation, a road trip comedy with a pair of opposites at the center. It looks great and offers a number of laughs, but it really should have been more. It is an easy and successful comedy for kids, and no worse than a mild disappointment for adults.
photo credit: DreamWorks Animation