By now DreamWorks knows what its niche is. As Pixar’s only real competitor for dominance over animated children’s films, its forte is oddball concepts like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda. Its latest endeavour, the alien-invasion comedy Home, is exactly as weird and wonderful as you’d expect.
In this quirky film, Earth is invaded by the well-meaning but arrogant Boov, who believe that ice cream and theme parks are an adequate compensation for relocating all humans to the Australian desert and taking their homes. Unfortunately the free-thinking outcast Oh (Jim Parsons) messes up one too many times when he accidentally alerts the Boov’s worst enemy to their location. While on the run from his furious peers, he encounters the fugitive human girl Tip (Rihanna) and, after some negotiation involving a hovering car and a locked freezer door, they team up to search for Tip’s mother (Jennifer Lopez).
This film may be for kids, but adults will enjoy it as well; it’s bright, entertaining and quite funny. While occasionally delving into toilet humour (literally), it never dumbs itself down too far. Parsons does his usual stellar work as a loveably eccentric social pariah, while Rihanna is surprisingly moving as the snarky, determined Tip. Steve Martin also does great work as the moronic Captain Smek, whose hilarious self-delusions are responsible for ninety percent of the other characters’ problems.
However, Home is not just a piece of forgettable entertainment. Beneath the light fluffy veneer are surprisingly sophisticated ideas about colonisation. The relocation of humanity is initially played for laughs, with the Boov happily assuring the baffled humans they know what is best. It’s only later, from the perspective of Tip, that the audience gets a glimpse of the pain of a population relocated by invaders. Though director Tim Johnson is careful to use broad brushstrokes, he does an excellent job of explaining to children why might does not equal right, couched in terms of adorkable aliens and slushy-powered hover-cars.
If that doesn’t float your boat, there’s plenty else to enjoy. Oh’s child-like earnestness will resonate with kids, as will his puzzled attempts at dissecting human behaviour. The film’s playful style of animation is colourful and energetic, the character designs warm and loveable, making it a real pleasure to watch. For obvious reasons, the soundtrack uses a number of songs by Rihanna and Lopez, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your taste in music. Thankfully, they’re never thrown in frivolously, and the filmmakers have matched them appropriately to the film’s emotional beats.
There are some minor flaws, particularly the Boov’s insistence on mangling grammar, which is initially annoying – but becomes less noticeable as the film progresses. This film also may not be appropriate for very young children, due to the Boov’s habit of eating things like screws and motor oil, which could set a bad example.
All of these are only minor quibbles, however. At the end of the day, this is a very fun, clever little film that both parents and children can enjoy. Its lessons about family, friendship and peaceful co-existence with starfish aliens are all clearly outlined without being patronising or belabouring the point. With all of its charming eccentricity, Home is a worthy addition to DreamWorks’ collection.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10