Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember (Book: Adam Rex)
Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Jones
PG for mild action and some rude humor.
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
While consistency is an important element to filmmaking, certain studios have been able to maintain their rich culture and creativity with little effort. DreamWorks struggles every year to find new footing that gives it access to ready cash. Unfortunately, Home doesn’t feel like the kind of film that will give it enough of a boost on the bottom line.
Find your place in the universe is a daunting task for anyone. For Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons), it’s even more difficult. As the Boov search the galaxy for a new home away from the deadly Gorg, Oh soon discovers that his fellow aliens just don’t understand his excessive personality, jovial spirits and desire to be loved. As his universe-spanning birthday invitation draws the attention of the Gorg, he must join forces with a lost little girl named “Tip” (voiced by Rihanna) to save civilization and help her find her family in the process.
DreamWorks Animation has a storied history as an animator. Launching a flagship operation with their highly successful Shrek franchise, DreamWorks has branched out into other styles of animation, sticking with human components where possible, unlike their rivals at Pixar which has predominantly been focusing on toys, insects, rodents and the occasional human. Their anthropomorphic Kung Fu Panda was wildly successful as was their How to Train Your Dragon films, but they’ve been largely unsuccessful in their other outings.
Home is emblematic of that struggle, a heavily flawed film that wants very much to be liked, but doesn’t quite know how to do that without appealing to the audience’s basic emotional desires and eschewing their intellect-based ones. The story is utterly simplistic, peppered with cute one-liners and sweet fish-out-of-water moments, but it doesn’t speak to the mind as easily.
This is exemplified in how it moves from scene to scene, dragging the audience along without any real rhyme or reason. The adventure may lead that way, but so often the plotting is irrelevant to the events on screen. It seems more like the creators wanted to create a family road trip comedy rather than a journey of self-discovery and emotional enlightenment. There are those moments, but the haphazard way of getting there keeps it from succeeding entirely.
That isn’t to say that Parsons’ vocal work isn’t top notch. Adopting a more playful, happy tone than his dour, elitist character on The Big Bang Theory, Parsons navigates the complex emotional minefield of adolescence with a character who is presumably adult, but acts more in line with a child discovering the world for the first time.
At his side is a character voiced by Rihanna who does an admirable job, but begs the question of why they couldn’t have gotten an actual child to do the voice. For decades, studios have tried to keep their young protagonists voiced by younger actors, but this time there isn’t a youngster in the cast. This makes Tip feel a bit wiser than her years demand. For a lost little girl who’s lived her entire life with her mother, the worldly demeanor and confidence are ultimately ill-fitting. This isn’t Rihanna’s fault specifically as the narrative gives Tip that style, but having a more mature voice behind the character only emboldens that feeling rather than adequately diminishing it.
On many levels, Home succeeds. Much of the humor on display is genuinely funny, delivered with aplomb by gifted Parsons; the animation is strong, vivid and bountiful; and the film moves at a brisk, laudable pace. However, the glaring issues almost derail any quality that’s on display. Had the writers crafted a story more complex than formulaic, they might have had something truly imaginative and unique.
The film is perfect for family audiences looking for a quick, quaint night at the movies (or on home video), but for those looking to DreamWorks to avoid the same slump that’s been plaguing Pixar for the last several years, it might be a bit of a disappointment. Home succeeds for what it is, but not much more. It’s a pleasant, entertaining picture that needed to be deeper and more profound.
Potentials: Animated Feature
September 9, 2015