Home (Tim Johnson, 2015)
Released just in time for the school holidays, Home is a delightful animated film for the kiddiewinks, even if it isn’t the cream of the crop when it comes to children’s animation.
Based on Adam Rex’s children’s book The True Meaning of Smek Day, Home centres on the friendship between Tip (voiced by Rihanna) and Oh (Jim Parsons), who hails from an alien race named the Boov. In an effort to escape from a threat known as the Gorg, the Boov, led by Captain Smek (Steve Martin), invade Earth and relocate all humans to a planet known as Happy Humanstown. The friendless Oh puts the Boov in jeopardy after he inadvertently sends a party invite to the Gorg, leaking their whereabouts. On the run, he meets Tip, who has managed to avoid capture but is desperate to be reunited with her mother (Jennifer Lopez).
As far as young audiences go, Home will be a treat. The 3D beautifully enhances every setting which includes New York, Paris, the suburban Happy Humanstown, and the Atlantic Ocean. After the darker palette of How to Train Your Dragon 2, Home dazzles with vibrancy. The bright colours alone should be enough to impress the littlies, though surprisingly Home has received a PG rating which seems a little harsh. This rating is based on ‘mild action and some rude humour’ which one can only assume refers to a joke in the film about poo. For real? The suggestion that under-15s can’t handle a poo joke without parental guidance is a joke, and it’s a shame that parents of younger kids may decide against their kids seeing this film based on its deceptive rating.
Jim Parsons, best known for his role as Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory, proves a clever choice for the role of Oh. Oh shares some similarities with Sheldon – he is an awkward outcast who has a limited understanding of social customs and human interaction. Rihanna, conversely, is an odd fit in the role of twelve-year-old Tip because no twelve-year-old has a smoker’s voice. Rihanna curated the soundtrack for the film, which includes three of her own songs, and at times the film comes off as just one big marketing ploy for her singing career. (Sidenote: Rihanna’s music may not be appropriate for the target audience of this film.
While the plot point about an alien race invading Earth and sending its inhabitants elsewhere may sound a little scary, it’s done in such a sunshine and lollipops kind of way that this is unlikely to freak out any child. The Boov are cute, colourful little things that aren’t any kind of threat because they’re led by such an incompetent buffoon, who incidentally is hilarious. Parents may observe a mild political message here, and children should benefit from a simple message about facing problems head on instead of running away, as well as an added point about the importance of family.
While DreamWorks Animation have found success with The Croods, How to Train Your Dragon, and the Madagascar franchise among others, none of these films have ever lived up to the standard the studio had previously set with Shrek, and are often surpassed by those films on offer from Disney (Frozen, Big Hero 6, Cars, Up, Wall-E, Toy Story/2/3, etc.) or otherwise (The Lego Movie, Despicable Me). Home’s target audience are unlikely to be too harsh, but unfortunately for their parents, it’s not one of those animated films that has added appeal for adults (unlike almost every Disney Pixar film ever made). Though Home‘s director Tim Johnson has previously co-directed the similarly average Antz, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, and Over The Hedge, he can’t bear the full brunt of the blame (especially because Home does look great). Co-writers Tom Astle and Matt Ember are perhaps more accountable, though considering Home is based on pre-existing source material, it could just be that DreamWorks as a whole isn’t trying hard enough to come up with original ideas that have universal appeal. While Home is sweet, it doesn’t punch you in the guts the way other animations have. But perhaps its main target audience isn’t quite so demanding as this reviewer.
Most of the humour in Home lies in the Boov’s attempts to adapt to Earth, its man-made creations, and human activities (Oh’s reaction to toe-tapping-inducing music is gold). Unlike other animated releases of recent years, Home isn’t powerful enough to rip your heart out and then sew it back up again in the same breath, but it’s sweet enough if you’re not yet old enough to know just how good mainstream animation can be.
This review was first published at Film Blerg