The newest Dreamworks production, „Home„, is a fun, pleasant film, although as unsubstantial as a soap bubble. It commits quite a few of the sins that are now standard for big budget animation, which include peddling predictable platitudes about family and friendship and not fitting in, ending with a (spoilers?) dance party, and stunt casting of celebrities that do not have distinctive voices and frankly aren’t great at voice acting- or, in this case, are not actors at all (one of the main characters is voiced by singer Rihanna). Thankfully, „Home” does not commit the Dreamworks sin of overdosing on obnoxious pop culture references in dialogues, but it compensates by adding an extra-dose of of obnoxious pop songs on the soundtrack (most of them are, obviously, Rihanna tracks). Seriously, the loud pop music in this film never stops, and it’s very annoying- particularly because it doesn’t really fit what’s happening on the screen and in fact actively distracts from it.
There is potential for an innovative storyline in „Home”, which deals with a race of small purple aliens, the Boovs, who are extremely good at being cowardly and obedient. After their home planet has been destroyed by an enemy species, the Boovs invade ours, kidnap all humans and send them to live in overcrowded colonies to make room for Earth’s new rulers. All throughout, the purple invaders are convinced that they are doing the best possible thing for both Boovs and humans, and their brand of condescending, benevolent harm-doing is an interesting element for a mainstream animated film, although „Home” doesn’t dwell much on the ethics angle. The invasion is also an excuse for some awesomely surrealist imagery, since the Boovs choose to dispose of human items they find useless by levitating them and leaving them in the air in giant floating balloons.
I would’ve liked to see more of the Boov society and their takeover of Earth, but Dreamworks is not exactly brave enough to explore a potentially subversive storyline. The main focus of the film is the relationship between Tip (Rihanna), a teenage girl who was left behind when her mother was sent to the human colony, and Oh (Jim Parsons of „The Big Bang Theory” fame), an accident-prone Boov despised by all his fellow Boovs. Tip and Oh go from enemies to friends while looking for Tip’s mom in a flying car powered by soda pop. Tip’s obese cat, Pig, accompanies them. It’s a silly journey that manages to be entertaining and occasionally endearing, thanks to its likeable protagonists (Tip more so than Oh)- and it’s great to see a Barbadian girl as a main character in a big budget movie for kids. In the end, though, the whole experience is a lot like blowing dandelions: fun in the moment, but you’re not left with anything afterwards.
Despite my grumbling about stunt casting (see above), Rihanna actually does a decent job as Tip, more so than the over-the-top performances of Parsons and Steve Martin (who plays the Boov leader). I liked the film’s visual aesthetic, too. The characters are expressive and cute, and the light-hearted world of „Home” is a nice place to spend an hour and a half in. I understand that the studio is not doing so well, though, and I don’t think this will be the film to save it in the long run, even if it did well in itself: there’s nothing here that couldn’t have been done by any other big animation studio, nothing that makes you think „God, I sure do hope Dreamworks gets back on track, we wouldn’t want to lose their distinctive voice!” I have no idea what is the distinctive voice of Dreamworks Animation in general (or if it has one), but the flavour of „Home” is „sweet and unmemorable”. Think pick and mix jelly beans from the cinema ticket counter rather than a well-crafted homemade cake with intriguing ingredients.