We’re at the point now in animation where no one studio has a monopoly on animated films anymore. Disney and Pixar used to have monopolies, but with the exponential increase in the output of animated films (and Pixar’s stumbling as of late), the competition has increased. Surprisingly, DreamWorks has been a strong rival and perhaps an equal to Disney and Pixar. With such sterling films as the How To Train Your Dragon series, the studio has shown that it can elevate itself from enjoyable but more lightweight fare like Monsters vs. Aliens and Megamind. Home is far from DreamWorks’ best effort, but it’s a diverting affair that works mostly because of one unusual asset.
An alien race called the Boov are searching for a new planet to inhabit, and needless to say, they find that home on Earth. To successfully move in, they abduct almost all the humans and transport them to Australia. Once the alines settle in, they go on with their lives, but none more excitedly than Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons). Oh is a classic outcast: because of his strong personality and his inability to fit in, he finds himself in a lot of trouble. Of course, the Boov don’t get much help from their arrogant, self-absorbed leader, Captain Smek (voiced by Steve Martin). But when Oh accidentally sends out an email that threatens to destroy their entire race, Oh teams up with a young girl named Tip (voiced by Rihanna) to escape from the angry Boov and help find Tip’s mom, who was abducted.
Granted, the movie is formulaic. There are elements taken from previous movies, like the classic road trip movie and the classic buddy movie and so forth. Even so, the movie is colorful and well-paced. Plus, the animation is fantastic. DreamWorks has had many well-animated movies, but their attention to detail can still astonish. Tip’s hair and skin are so detailed and well-done that you can’t help but admire how well DreamWorks is able to pull off animation alongside Disney and Pixar.
However, the movie’s real draw is perhaps its most unexpected. It’s always a risk when pop/rock stars get involved with big feature films because so much can go wrong, whether it’s the star’s inability to act or the project coming off as a preening, self-serving ego trip. Some stars have pulled off very successful movie careers, with Cher quite possibly holding the gold standard in this regard (quite literally, since she has an Oscar to her name). Rihanna, in her voice acting debut, pulls it off admirably. Not only is she one of the main characters, she also helped put together the soundtrack which has contributions by her and other big names like Jennifer Lopez (who also plays Tip’s mom in the movie), Charli XCX and others (the movie also throws in snippets of Rihanna’s huge 2010 hit “Only Girl (In The World)”). There’s no sense of this being an ego trip. Her remarkably expressive voice gives Tip major dept, and elevates this movie into something worth seeing. Of course, Tip is tailored to Rihanna herself (Tip is from Barbados, either by coincidence or by design), but this we can let slide.
Home is actually based off a book called The True Meaning of Smekday, and whether or not it’s as good as the book or not I don’t know. Regardless, Home is a worthy family movie. It won’t be the classic that Shrek and How To Train Your Dragon are, but DreamWorks has been pumping out good movies with some surprising consistency. Home is no exception.