A few months behind everyone else obviously, I got round to seeing this during the weekend. I will be the first to admit the real reason I didn’t go to see it during its theatrical run – it looked dreadful. DreamWorks have proved to be an extremely mixed bag for me, producing wonderful masterpieces that I have adored as much as any Disney film, like How To Train Your Dragon, Megamind, Mr Peabody and Sherman, the Kung Fu Panda films, some of the Shrek films, Puss in Boots, the Madagascar franchise, and The Road to El Dorado, while churning out some fairly mediocre films like Bee Movie, Shark Tale, Rise of the Guardians, Antz and Sinbad, as well as some I just utterly despise such as The Croods and Turbo. I was fully prepared, based on trailers and previews, for this to be in the Croods and Turbo camp. And is it? Surprisingly, no, it’s not. Is it as good as the best DreamWorks films? Hell, no. So it must be in the mediocre category. Well, not quite either, it’s somewhere in the middle of being awful and fairly enjoyable for me.
There is nothing particularly original here, apart from the alien character designs, but it also doesn’t feel like a major retread of old ground. It definitely cannot shake the feeling of been-there-done-that which dominated and merely seeped through the entire advertising, but it still manages to be moderately fun without actually raising any real laughs. It has somewhat of a peculiar voice cast bringing its characters to life, with Jim Parsons of the Big Bang Theory the choice for the protagonist, Steve Martin as the antagonist and Rihanna, whose last acting attempt I saw in Battleship went down like many of the boats in the heart of the action. Strangely enough, they mostly work. Rihanna is actually remarkably bearable, despite my doubts, and Parsons essentially carries the entire film with his portrayal of a lonely yet optimistic alien, although the joke about his English failures can become grating at times. Both also have good chemistry, which helps in this type of buddy flick.
The film thankfully dives right into the story in its first minutes, introducing us to the aliens, the Boov, as they invade Earth and claim it as their own, dumping all the humans of Earth together in Australia in Boov-supervised centres. However, one young plucky young girl, Tip (voiced by Rihanna) is left behind and, in order to find her mother, teams up with a lonely outsider Boov, Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons) who is a fugitive from his race after accidentally sending out their location to the Boov arch-alien-nemesis the Gorg, who are coming to Earth seemingly to destroy it.
The film has a nice pace and does give itself time to explore its characters and themes. Again, nothing spectacular or original, but it is there. There are attempts at comedy but they feel cliched and lazy. The only real humour one can get from the film it seems would be through Jim Parsons’ vocal delivery and one-liners, and in fairness they are fine. The animation is good, as per Dreamworks usual, but without being anything ground-breaking or fresh. The design of the Boov aliens is creative and is used effectively, which does add some fun spirit to the animated performances. There is also some nice twists tied into the storyline which were well-written.
Although Home is surprisingly entertaining, and much better than expected, I still felt it missed the creativeness, clever writing and emotional involvement that other DreamWorks films like How to Train Your Dragon and Megamind had in spades. We don’t really feel for these characters to a great extent, and due to the predictability of the plot, we don’t really care about their journey as we know it will all turn out fine. The story does feel overly-familiar, not a trait DreamWorks films tend to avoid, but although quite a few of their other films at least had a creative soul and original look on an idea to keep it entertaining and relatively fresh, Home does not. Not bad, as was expected, but certainly not up with the best of the animated films of recent years.