DIRECTOR: Tim Johnsonhome

CAST: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Martin, Matt L. Jones

RUNNING TIME: 94 mins

CERTIFICATE: U

BASICALLY…: After an alien race known as the Boov successfully invades Earth, human survivor Tip (Rihanna) forms an unlikely friendship with Oh (Parsons), a Boov on the run from his own race…

 

 

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Life isn’t being kind to DreamWorks Animation right now – and we think we know the exact pinpoint of when it began.

After the financial disappointment of 2012’s Rise of the Guardians, distribution rights were sold from Paramount to 20th Century Fox (who already play host to another animation studio, Blue Sky), with the hopes that it would perhaps provide them with more exposure from a major Hollywood force. First out of their new partnership was The Croods, which was a critical and financial success – but then came Turbo, which was despised by critics and audiences everywhere and marked a new box office low with only $83 million US domestic. It was, as they say, all downhill from there. Not even last year’s How To Train Your Dragon 2, despite universally positive reviews, could recover the studio from its financial stoop, and with the last straw being The Penguins of Madagascar underwhelming at the box office DreamWorks recently announced a major cut-back in its release schedule, effectively laying off hundreds of animators and losing a whole bunch of money in the process.

So, where does Home fit into all of this?

Their latest film, based on Adam Rex’s 2007 children’s book The True Meaning of Smekday, represents the studio in the midst of its rut, and it’s not long before it starts to show in its creative process. It’s not entirely short of imaginative ideas, but at the same time most of them are ones we’ve seen done before (it’s a “human bonds with alien” plot done in ET, Lilo and Stitch and God knows how many other family sci-fi movies). It boasts some gorgeous animation at times, but then again some of the character designs – particularly the Boov alien race that conquers Earth at the very beginning – are too cartoonish for their own good. It keeps the number of pop culture references to an absolute minimum, yet its soundtrack relies heavily on Rihanna songs both new and old (which are even more distracting considering the pop superstar voices a major character in the film as well). Put short, Home is something of an unfortunate mess.

There are good things about it; like we said, the animation can be as stunning as usually is with DreamWorks, and the plot does move at a rapid pace skimming over particular story beats which gives it more of an unpredictable nature about it. Its third act, in particular, has a small twist that’s not entirely unexpected but is still a minor surprise to see played out as it is. Steve Martin, who lends his voice to the Boov’s egomaniacal leader Captain Smek, gets most of the laughs though maybe that’s because the comedian’s dry sense of humour fits the character perfectly.

However, it’s certainly not among the studio’s finest pieces of work, but nor is it at the lower levels of Shark Tale and Turbo either. There are multiple reasons for this being so, such as the over-familiarity in its central plot, Rihanna’s vocal talents not matching particularly well with her teenage character named Tip, and Jim Parsons bringing a quickly irritating voice to an otherwise passable character (seriously, if that’s how he acts on The Big Bang Theory then we regret having bought that boxset for future binge-watching to begin with). Most of the jokes don’t particularly work for either children or adults, and it didn’t seem in the screening we were at that neither of them expressed much interest into what was going on anyway.

If this review is making the film sound worse than it is, then that seriously wasn’t the intention. By no means is it a horrible movie or even really that bad (though after Unfinished Business we’d consider ANYTHING to be on par with Citizen Kane), it’s just not the strong breakthrough movie that DreamWorks Animations desperately needs right now. It is very disappointing to see an otherwise competent animation studio be stuck in a rut like this, and considering Home was their last chance of the year to recapture their cultural impact – their follow-up entry is a third Kung Fu Panda movie next March – there isn’t a lot of hope that they will wholly recover for quite some time now. It’s up to you to save the studio now, Po…

SO, TO SUM UP…

Home is an unfortunate creative mess and yet another disappointment for DreamWorks Animation, relying too heavily on unoriginal tropes and unfocused plotting. There are good qualities, such as its animation and unpredictable nature, but in this instance Home isn’t necessarily where the heart is…