Directed by: Tim Johnson
Premise: An animated movie in which aliens invade the earth. Human beings are relocated to an amusement park while the extraterrestrials overtake civilization. An outcast alien (voice of Jim Parsons) befriends a young woman (voice of Rihanna) and they travel to the human camp.
What Works: Home is an interesting take on the alien invasion genre. In movies that follow the War of the Worlds template, the extra-terrestrials are villainous conquerors who lay waste to civilization. The aliens of Home are quite nice and unassuming if a bit obnoxious. They see themselves as doing humanity a favor by taking over the planet and imposing their own values and ideas on another civilization. This film is part of a broader trend in sci-fi; like Avatar and Battle for Terra, Home is another story critiquing colonialism. The difference is that in this film it never occurs to the colonizers that they are invaders and the lead alien character is surprised to realize that their help might not be wanted. In that way, Home is able to deliver a message about imperialism in a way that is accessible. Many of these kinds of films are dreadfully self-serious but because Home has some fun with it the message is easier to swallow. Home improves significantly over the course of the picture. The first half is very high energy in a way that’s not always enjoyable (at least not for grown up viewers) but the filmmakers dial the tone back in the second half and the ending plays very effectively. The bulk of the story is about two characters literally from different worlds who are flung together under unusual circumstances and the story makes their bond enjoyable. The young girl, voiced by Rihanna, is assertive but also credibly vulnerable and the alien, voiced by Jim Parsons, is given a strong character arc over the course of the story. While not much of this is new, it’s done well enough to be enjoyable for a family audience.
What Doesn’t: Like a lot of feature films from DreamWorks Animation, Home is more of a kid’s movie than a family movie. It has a zany tone, especially in the beginning, and it plays like a cartoon. The goofiness of the movie and its main character tend to be obnoxious in a way that will appeal to children but will probably grate on their parents. Home also caters towards kids in the way it feels like a toy commercial. DreamWorks Animation is notorious for creating and exploiting properties like this for the purpose of generating ancillary revenue through tie-in products like toys and games while treating the movies as an afterthought. Home is given its due—the movie does not appear slapdash—but it is one of those animated features that gives the impression that it was designed with the input of toy manufacturers. Everything about the movie is just too safe. There are no risks taken with the story or the characters and viewers who are acquainted with animated movies will find a lot of the character relationships and story conflicts to be very familiar. The story flings together an odd couple and sets them on a road trip and en route they become friends and learn to respect each other. The formula is done well enough but there’s not much to it. The plot is sparse and at no point does the film take any kind of creative or storytelling risks. It plays out exactly as we expect it to and in that respect it feels less like a work of art and more like an industrial product. The commercial concessions of Home are especially evident in the music. The lead human character is voiced by pop star Rihanna and her songs are shoehorned into the movie in a way that is often distracting because they are frequently out of place.
Bottom Line: Parents looking for something to watch with their kids could do far worse than Home. They could also do better and with its marketing notes showing through its story and character design this is a far cry from classics like Bambi or Toy Story. But as a piece of matinee entertainment, Home is a satisfactory animated feature.
Episode: #536 (April 5, 2015)