1 hour, 34 minutes
Whenever I go to see a kids’ movie, especially one that my own kids enjoy, I feel a kind of pressure to like it. And when I don’t, I feel kind of like the Grinch. Why do I have to rain on everyone’s parade?
I remember feeling that way after seeing one of those “Cars” spin-off “Planes” movies. They were junk, but everyone around me loved them and a friend of mine who’s a pilot was going on and on about how cool it was that they had a movie from the planes’ point of view and then there’s old sour Gus, griping that “the script is sub-standard and where was that crop-duster’s motivation?” C’mon, lighten up already!
I guess it’s not that hard to guess how I felt about this week’s alien invasion romp, “Home.”
Actually, the movie’s not that bad — more tiresome than anything. Based on Adam Rex’s ambitious 2007 comic YA novel, “The True Meaning of Smekday,” “Home” tells the story of a traveling race of aliens called the Boov. The Boov are a people who prize caution above all else, and pride themselves on being highly accomplished at running away. Currently on the run from a terrifying warlike race called the Gorg, the Boov happen across Earth and decide that it would be a perfect place to settle and hide.
Luckily, Earth is only populated with simple, intellectually backward creatures who can be easily relocated to a vast suburb on the continent of Australia. With all the people out of the way, the Boov happily move in and take over, remaking the landscape with advanced bubble technology that allows landmarks, buildings, even mountain ranges, to float peacefully above the ground.
There’s no reason for this, but the Boov are a little bubble-headed themselves, not realizing that perhaps Earth’s denizens might not want to relocate to Australia. They’re going to find out, however. There’s one human who got left behind at the last moment, a young girl named Gratuity Tucci (nicknamed, naturally, Tip) and she’s on a mission to find her mother.
On the Boov side of things, we have Oh, named for the exasperated sound his fellows make when they hear him coming. Oh is enthusiastic and kind, but accident prone, and has nearly caused his race’s extinction on more than one occasion. While trying to invite friends to his new apartment-warming party, Oh inadvertently invites the entire galaxy, sending the Gorg his address and revealing to them the Boov’s new home planet.
Suddenly finding himself Boov Public Enemy No. 1, Oh crosses paths with Tip and the two make a pact to help one another. Guess who become friends and find a spirit of understanding and cooperation on the way?
Much of what’s wrong with this story could have to do with the fact that a dense, detail filled 400-plus page novel has been crammed into a 90-minute cartoon aimed at first- and second-graders. The film feels rushed, as though the plot is in a race to unspool before the credits roll. There is quite a bit of story packed into the film, but most of it feels like it’s given short shrift.
The film is mostly “inspired” by “The True Meaning of Smekday,” and my favorite part of the film, a spoiler I won’t reveal, is a complete 180 from the book. I think the screenwriters could have gotten away with simplifying things quite a bit and saved the audience from rapidly-paced plot overload. The film is resigned to giving us goofy, somewhat cuddly characters and not much else. Steve Martin is completely wasted as Captain Smek, the hapless Boov leader who brings his people to Earth (renamed Smekland, in his honor). Jim Parsons, of “The Big Bang Theory” is Oh, and he’s fine, though I quickly became annoyed with the Boov’s backwards Yoda-esque way of speaking. That may work better on the page, but on-screen I was reminded of another annoying, speech-challenged “Star Wars” character, Jar Jar Binks. Rihanna shows up to voice a 12-year old girl, which is weird in itself, but she does a passable job at least.
The screenplay is definitely lacking. There’re a lot of one-liners and silly pratfalls, but nothing approaching character development. It’s a harmless kids’ movie, you say? Yes, but kids’ movies are a heck of a lot better than they used to be and studios, especially Dreamworks, which has the “Madagascar” films and “Kung Fu Panda” on its roster, can’t afford to slack.
Harmless, though, I will agree with. “Home” is certainly innocuous and has a good heart. The moral is a good one, and my kids certainly got a kick out of the cool sci-fi eye-candy the film offers up.
I wasn’t particularly impressed, but neither did I actively dislike the movie, like I did “Cars 2” or the “Planes” films.
One interesting side-note: in the book, the character of Oh is actually named J-Lo. Wisely deciding against that infamous moniker, the filmmakers renamed him, but instead cast the actual Jennifer Lopez to voice Gratuity’s mother, keeping at least a little J-Lo in the film after all. If only they’d spent as much time working on the rest of the script.
“Home” is rated PG for mild rude humor.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.