Welcome to Earth, home of the Boov! Wait…let me back up.
In DreamWorks’ Home, a passive-agressively pacifist alien species called the Boov are on the run from a much more agressive-agressively species called the Gorg. Their leader is Captain Smek (Steve Martin), named as such because he’s the best at running away. The Boov relocate humanity to Australia, re-named Happy Humanstown. All seems to be working fine until a chronically inept Boov called Oh (Jim Parsons) accidentally hits “send all” when emailing invites to his housewarming party, alerting the Gorg to the Boov’s new home. Desperate to escape, Oh runs into Gratuity “Tip” Tucci (Rihanna), the sole human who escaped the Boov’s relocation program. Oh agrees to reunite Tip with her mother (Jennifer Lopez), if Tip agrees to help Oh escape the poorly articulate wrath of the entire Boov race.
Based on the children’s book The Real Meaning of Someday by Adam Rex, Home is another DreamWorks Animation film full of pop culture references, hip music, celebrity voice actors and a wildly inconsistent tone. But you know what? It’s also a fun, well-meaning (if not always well-crafted) diversion that’s as light and quick as the bubble-ships the Boov travel around in. You could do worse for comedy/adventure alien invasion stories.
The Boov themselves are a curious mishmash of an alien race, kind of a cuddlier, less cynical version of Invader Zim’s Irken Empire. They’re all curves and pastel colors, in stark contrast to the Gorg’s sharp angles and green-on-black coloring. Their skins shift colors like a mood ring, and they all speak in a Coneheads-meet-Yoda kind of pidgin syntax that eventually becomes somewhat tiresome. The distinct characteristics of the Boov, though, allow the animation to shine in many ways, from their flowing movements to the close-up textures of their skin.
It also allows Jim Parsons to do a whole lot of very big comedy. Parsons throws himself completely into the role, and it’s very easy to imagine him flailing about while recording his lines. His sincerity stops the performance from becoming too precious, although it sometimes comes awfully close. Likewise, Steve Martin really goes for it with Captian Smek, and he sounds like he’s having genuine fun with the role.
But how is Rihanna? Well, she’s…not bad. Honestly, not bad. Tip’s first lines are rough. Very rough, in fact. Eventually, though, Rihanna’s voice work starts to sound natural and unaffected, even if Tip usually sounds older than the script tells us she is (she’s supposed to be 13 or 14; Rihanna plays her more like a 17-year-old). Tip, like Rihanna herself, is from Barbados, and she’s drawn appropriately. Rich dark brown skin, curly hair, wider nose. Lopez makes the most of her small role as Tip’s mother, and she does her best to make her few lines important. As far as celebrity voice acting goes, both are pretty damn good.
Before your expectation bubble gets too big, though, it’s time to deflate it just a little bit. There isn’t a whole lot going on in Home. The plot is pretty minimal, and even then there seem to be chunks missing. The relationship between Oh and Tip goes from acrimonious to besties relatively quick, and the dynamic between the two is imminently predictable. It’s to Parson’s and Rihanna’s credit, though, that the emotional notes it strikes resonate despite the script. Don’t be surprised if you tear up at some point.
The pace of the film is often dictated by the ubiquitous pop songs on the soundtrack, several of which are (of course) by Rihanna, to the point where it seems more like an advertisement for the soundtrack than a movie in its own right. Then there’s the odd disconnect that occurs when seeing a character voiced by Rihanna dancing to a song by Rihanna, and then 20 minutes later being comforted by a song by Jennifer Lopez that only the audience can hear. It’s especially noticeable in the third act, which seems to drag out much longer than it should and arrives at an ending that finally tips the emotional scales fully into the saccharine…at least until the inevitable, patented DreamWorks end credits dance party.
Home isn’t going to spark any fires, but it’s also not a horrible way to spend the afternoon. It’s light, and it doesn’t leave a horrible aftertaste. It lacks the depth and fullness of other recent animated films like Big Hero 6, but sometimes you just want to shake your Boov thing and not think about it. (And I kind of hate myself for saying that, but I did it anyway.) Maybe the Boov really are invading Earth! I am traveling now to Happy Humanstown!
FBOTU Score: 6 out of 10 / C+