Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, based on the book by Adam Rex
Directed by Tim Johnson
Starring Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Jones, Brian Stepanek and more
It’s rare when a kids’ movie pleasantly surprises me like this.
Much like the squishy little alien in the commercials, Dreamworks’ new movie “Home” is quite a bit weirder than it appears to be from the trailers. Though it takes a little while to settle into the movie’s unexpected groove, once you have, it also proves to be sweeter, more profound and quite a bit funnier than I had thought it would be. It’s a breath of fresh air in the realm of kids’ movies, and one you’ll be glad to experience.
The movie’s first trick is to flip the classic dynamic we’ve all come to expect from alien/human buddy movies. Instead of a lone alien lost on earth, helped by a nice human, “Home” kicks off with the most adorable alien invasion ever shown onscreen.
The aliens take over the entire planet in the first 15 minutes, vacuuming up all the humans and depositing them in a “human” community in Australia that looks like a planned suburban community on a massive scale.
Tip, voiced by Rihanna, is a human pre-teen who escaped the vacuuming and is trying to find her mom. Oh, the alien voiced by Jim Parsons, accidentally imperiled his entire species by accidentally hitting “send all” on a housewarming party and alerting the entire universe to where his house is. The two run into each other while on the run, and Oh learns that the world isn’t at all like his supreme overlord said it was.
The road trip that follows, though more traditional than the scenario that got them there, is both inventive, sweet and funny. Oh and the other aliens’ cluelessness is a reliable source of humor, and the sheer absurdity of some of the situations made me laugh out loud more than once.
There are also some very nice moments between Tip and Oh, ones that very clearly show two people slowly learning to reach past an immense cultural divide.
There’s also a lot of interesting themes about hope and bravery, and watching both Tip and Oh struggle to find the courage inside themselves – and what that means – is actually really beautiful. It turns out that some things are true no matter what species you are.
Both actors do excellent voice work, with Rihanna communicating both Tip’s toughness and very reasonable vulnerability. Parsons’ voice is ideally suited for Oh’s more comedic moments, but he’s also good at communicating tenderness and wisdom during more serious moments.
Steve Martin also makes a surprise appearance – his first in a movie since 2011 – and hits it out of the park as the voice of the alien boss Captain Smek.
The movie has already received a lot of recognition for being the first 3-D animated film ever made to have a non-white lead – Tip is given Rihanna’s childhood in Barbados, along with an enterprising single mother who scrimped and saved to give her daughter a better life. Seeing her onscreen, living a life that so many people in the audience will be able to relate to in one degree or another, makes the complete lack of characters like her in other kids’ movies stand out in stark relief.
It’s not as pleasant a surprise as all the other ones “Home” delivered, but I hope it’s one animation studios listen to.