For what it is — a kid-friendly 3D animated film — Home is not too bad. But they heyday of animated features — when each one could reliably be expected to top the last — is over. Home is more a commodity than the next step forward.
The Boov — an alien race of little rubbery guys who change color with emotion, who do not use contractions when speaking their lines, and whose evolutionary advantage is their cowardice — have run out of room on their planet. They arrive at Earth and immediately begin righting our wrongs. Anything deemed useless — bicycles, toilets, garbage cans — is floated up into the sky and sent on its way. Apartments are willingly inhabited and adapted for Boov use.
The humans are treated “kindly.” They are scooped up and sent to a little part of Australia and housed in a tidy but crowded camp. From New York City, only one human avoids capture: a ten-year-old girl named Gratuity Tucci (her friends call her Tip) whose cat saved her from the alien suction tubes.
Tip (voiced by Rihanna) decides she must reunite with her mother. She figures on sneaking past the aliens, then driving her mom’s car out of the city and hopefully on to wherever mom might have been taken.
Meanwhile an alien named Oh (so named because whenever he walks into a room the other aliens let out a disappointed, “Ohhh...”) can not seem to make any friends in his new apartment. To make matters worse, he accidentally emailed invitations to his housewarming party to the entire galaxy — including the Boov’s racial enemies the Gorg, who are sure to follow Oh’s helpful directions and destroy the planet.
Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons) runs into Tip in a convenience store and, long story short, he becomes Tip’s navigator, mechanic, and sidekick. First stop: Paris for information on where Tip’s mother might have been taken.
Nods, Winks, and Yawns
Home has some good visual ideas that must have been inspiring to work with. For example, the story calls for a shot of the Eiffel Tower pointing straight at the 3D cameras.
The script (by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember — writing from a book by Adam Rex) includes a few nods to the adults in the audience. Politicians mention “takers.” Oh is the smartest Boov when it comes to Internet security, though he’s terrible at Internet etiquette. And of course the story of colonization leads to some heady thoughts about imperialism.
Steve Martin voices Captain Smek, the leader of the Boov whom Oh admires. He’s allowed to shine in a few monologues about the virtues of retreat.
The film’s final conclusion takes the lessons of the main story and enlarges them by one size. Even if the adults in the audience see it coming, they should admit it’s a pretty smart development.
Still, on the whole, Home does not push any boundaries — visual or otherwise. I think the filmmakers might have been proud of the fact that their heroine is a dark-skinned American of Barbadan heritage. But I think most audiences will quickly see past skin color and race to the formulaic plot and simplistic moral that ensure Home will be an entertainment for the kids and not so much for the parents.