Home is harmless, colorful fun

by Steve Pulaski

While DreamWorks Animation is by no means in jeopardy of closing its doors, it’s definitely not in the cushy place it once was, back in the middle of the 2000’s. During that time, DreamWorks was exercising its Shrek franchise as much as they possibly could, in movie sequels, spinoffs, and merchandizing, while treading water with Madagascar, its latest money-maker. Since the turn of the new decade, those two franchises have run their course and, unlike Pixar, a studio that churns out winner after winner critically and financially, DreamWorks occasionally falters in both departments. After the mixed critical reactions and financial shortcomings of films like Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Rise of the Guardians, and Turbo, DreamWorks needs a winner now more than ever, and preferably a new entity they can build another long-term franchise around.

DreamWorks’ Home will not be that film. It’s a film that DreamWorks could’ve made as a momentary diversion from catering to larger franchises. It’s harmless, colorful fun, with a great sense of whimsy, but nothing more. Its inclusion of tired “be yourself, be different” morals, its infatuation with hope and optimism, and its abundance of Rihanna (not only is she a voice actress, but several of her songs are also included, making it feel like a vehicle for someone who doesn’t need one) make the film difficult to see as anything more than a pre-game for what looks to be another Pixar masterwork come June with Inside Out, or even Illumination Entertainment’s Minions.

Directed by
Tim Johnson
Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin
Release Date
27 March 2015
Steve’s Grade: C-

The film begins with an alien race known as “Boovs,” lead by Captain Smek (voiced by Steve Martin), invading planet Earth, vacuuming up humans and sending them to Australia so the Boovs can take up a central portion of the planet. The Boovs foolishly believe they are doing the humans a favor, as they are a conforming, unquestioning squad of aliens that are easily mislead and don’t do a great deal of questioning. One of the Boovs is Oh (Jim Parsons), a goofy, trouble-making, but well-meaning alien who winds up being banished from his species’ newfound community after mistakenly notifying their enemies of their whereabouts. Oh winds up meeting Tip (Rihanna), a young girl, and her chubby cat named Pig, as she tries to track down her mother, who was separated from her in an attempt to avoid the large gravitational vacuum. Tip reluctantly allows Oh to help her find her mother, and the two strike up an amiable friendship as they both try to do what they can in a confusing, bad situation.

Parsons’ Oh character is an effortlessly likable one. He speaks in broken English, almost like Yoda, he’s adorably naive, and he has received his name by his “friends” who groan and sigh whenever they see him enter a room. Parsons is an ideal voice for this character because of his ability to be obvious in his mannerisms and behavior yet all the more genial. Rihanna is another interesting choice for Tip, and shows that her voice acting abilities aren’t as distracting as some other pop singers have proved. Their characters and the chemistry they create are the foundation for why Home is a bit better than it almost has a right to be.

What soils Home‘s long-term impact is how ordinary the entire film is. There’s nothing inside the film worth getting excited about, no real charm or magic in the film’s plot, and its themes are destined to seem tired and worn in the eyes of most, even young children. They’ve heard the message that being different is okay and that having hope is something that makes us human from the ample amounts of PBS Kids programs they’ve been watching; they didn’t need to go to the theater to be told the same thing in an unremarkable sense.

To state how colorful and texturally vibrant Home is shouldn’t be saying too much, as gorgeous, candy-colored animation has more or less become a standard in contemporary times. The benefits of Home, again, rest amongst the characters, who are charming to spend time with and are at their most engaging when we watch them interact with one another, be it Tip explaining to Oh what dancing is or Oh trying to decipher Pig’s “vibrating” motions (his purring). These, again, are more or less forgettable attributes to a film that is unfortunately only brought down by the familiarity of its morals rather than lifted up. These next two years will be an interesting couple years for DreamWorks, who are either going to need to find a new franchise or get really good at giving us new stand-alone entities.