Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for mild Action and some Rude Humor
Directed by: Tim Johnson
Written by: Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember
(based on the novel THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY by Adam Rex)
Voices of: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Martin & Matt L. Jones
My introduction to HOME came last year during a screening of MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN. Before that film played, the 4-minute short ALMOST HOME drew big laughs from the audience, myself included. A few months later, I came to find that little short film was actually a prologue for a feature that was originally supposed to arrive last Thanksgiving. In a move that usually shows no faith in the final product, the studio shifted the release date from the high-profile holiday week to a much safer March 27. HOME is one of a handful of wide releases that I didn’t bother to see on the big screen this year. It just didn’t interest me enough to plop down hard-earned cash and time when so many other (better-looking) films were arriving in theaters. Having now seen HOME (which barely hit home video and became available to rent this week), I can say that there are definitely things to like about it. By the end of the film though, all I could muster was a shrug-worthy “that was alright” response.
The Boov are a cowardly race of aliens making their way from planet to planet. Their nomadic lifestyle is driven by an effort to outrun and hide from their enemies, the Grog. Oh is a Boov who sticks out for a number of reasons. He’s socially awkward and annoying to the degree that nobody wants to be friends with him. Oh’s situation doesn’t get much better when the Boov invade Earth (relocating all the humans to Australia so they can have the rest of the planet to themselves). Through a huge mistake, Oh becomes a fugitive from his own kind and accidentally runs into Tip, a teenage girl who managed to escape the Boov’s clutches. Together, Oh and Tip journey across the world in an effort to save Earth and search for Tip’s mother.
I imagine that your enjoyment of HOME may depend on your tolerance for Jim Parsons. Frankly, I’m one of those people who isn’t a huge fan of BIG BANG THEORY and find Parsons to be more annoying than he is funny. He’s pulling his usual obnoxious and awkward shtick here, but in voice form as an animated alien. As a result, I found Oh to be far more annoying than was cute or lovable. However, the rest of the Boov don’t fare too much better. HOME is a movie that relies on way too many cheap jokes, the biggest of which is a running gag that involves the Boov mistaking human objects for something else entirely. These include: a spare tire being used as pajamas, a grill being worn as a crown, footballs being devoured like fruit, and a urinal cap being munched on like a blue mint. You may notice that last example was a bit of potty humor and that’s certainly not the only bodily function joke that HOME makes. We also get cheap pop culture references (e.g. a running gag about slurpee flavor named after famous celebrity). However, the biggest aggravation comes in this film taking the FAMILY GUY approach to comedy in which it constantly cuts away to brief skit-like moments in a desperate attempt for a couple of chuckles.
While HOME isn’t very funny, there are some redeeming qualities to be found in this film nonetheless. Rihanna actually does a good job as Tip and I didn’t constantly hear her as Rihanna (which is impressive for a well-known celebrity voice to blend right into their animated character). That doesn’t exactly make the half-dozen Rihanna songs that substitute in the place of character development or genuine emotions that much better, but they didn’t exactly aggravate me as much as the sour attempts at humor either. Steve Martin serves well as the villainous Boov leader, even if he is slightly underused. The animation is simplistic, but moves fluidly and has a bright color scheme to it. Also, I actually liked the conclusion of this film too. The message might be overused and familiar, but its execution (though predictable) was charming enough to make me forgive the film’s bigger shortcomings to a degree.
Overall, HOME is a mixed bag that falls on the lower end of the DreamWorks totem pole. That’s not to say that it’s bad, because there are things to like here. However, the sense of humor didn’t work for me at all and I found Oh to be more annoying than lovable. I did like where the movie ultimately wound up and thought the animation looked neat. In the end, HOME is a colorful piece of family entertainment that will keep children occupied for 94 minutes, but I can’t imagine it doing much for older viewers.