Home Directed by Tim Johnson (PG)

Most movies are perfectly content to offer a single ending to wrap up the story. Home, the new DreamWorks Animation production, has about five endings and none of them are especially effective.


However, vague climaxes are only one of many problems. Home boasts exceptionally detailed character designs and a few amusing vocal performances, but can’t seem to land a single joke, reduced to poo-poo/pee-pee gags and commercials for the soundtrack.

 

Photo courtesy of Dreamworks Animation

Home casts Rihanna as a 12-year-old. “Daddy, why does that little girl
sound like a 27-year-old smoker?”


The Boov are an easily frightened alien race. Under the guidance of Captain Smek (voiced by Steve Martin), the Boov have perfected their ability to take over planets while searching for safety, currently targeting Earth when their determined enemy, the Gorg, draws near.


Oh (Jim Parsons) is a clumsy, childlike Boov who doesn’t have any friends, hoping to charm his new neighbors on Earth with a housewarming party while all humans are relocated to Australia.


When his emailed invitation is sent to the entire galaxy, the Boov are concerned the Gorg will find them once again. Fearing arrest, Oh goes into hiding, coming across Gratuity “Tip” Tucci (Rihanna) and her pet cat, Pig.


Left behind but determined to find her mother, Lucy (Jennifer Lopez), Tip finds an unlikely ally in Oh, who’s good at constructing flying cars, helping the young girl while trying to keep out of sight as Boov security, led by Kyle (Matt Jones), commences a manhunt for the alien.


An adaptation of Adam Rex’s 2007 children’s book, The True Meaning of Smekday, Home has been handed a family film facelift, filled with celebrity voices, cuddly characters, and pop music. Director Tim Johnson previously helmed Over the Hedge, a successful Dreamworks endeavor, yet his magic touch doesn’t seem to work here.

 

Home is certainly affable, but it feels programmed, touching on all the blockbuster basics to create a package easily sold. There’s nothing wrong with simple comedy, but the movie doesn’t know when to quit, resorting to Oh drinking urine to snap younger viewers to attention.


Even Steve Martin seems unchallenged, tasked with making Smek a goofball leader of the Boov, but there’s no writing to support him, forcing the legendary comedian to make funny noises to salvage scenes.


Visually, Home takes in the enormity of the Boov invasion. Their bubble-based technology is fun to watch, and Tip’s car is handed the flying treatment, giving the movie a chance to zip around the world, adding needed screen energy. Most impressive is character design and reaction, with subtle facial contortions for the Boov.


Along with Martin, Parsons works overtime to make Oh three-dimensional. With his broken English and constant enthusiasm, the tiny, blobbish, multi-legged creature is always aiming to please, despite his accident-prone nature. Parsons is solid in the role, keeping Oh more frantic than obnoxious, and the alien’s exploration of human food and music is good for a few smiles.


The odd duck here is Rihanna, providing voice work for a 12-year-old, while her acting limitations are painfully obvious (“Daddy, why does that little girl sound like a 27-year-old smoker?”). Perhaps her casting was a contractual obligation, as Rihanna also provides the soundtrack.


Home doesn’t have an exit plan. The screenplay cooks up multiple conclusions without ever settling on a graceful way to end the movie, fumbling with Oh’s invitation transmission, Lucy’s location, and the Gorg’s presence in space. The needless extensions only pour cement into the feature’s shoes until the experience becomes a grind.

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