Director: Tim Johnson
Cast: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez
Running time: 94 mins
Rating: **1/2 (two-and-a-half stars)
There once was a time when those who were tired of formulaic Disney films could turn for succour to DreamWorks movies instead. With films like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar (and their many, many sequels) and Megamind, Dreamworks excelled in a kind of storytelling that turned conventional mores on their head. Where else would an ogre kiss a pretty princess and turn not into a Disney-ish handsome prince, but change her into an ogress instead? Where else would a super villain actually turn out to be a super hero?
In its latest offering, however, Dreamworks provides no surprise twists, and not much food for thought either.
Home — featuring the voices of Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin and Jennifer Lopez — is a cutesy feature that seems to have been made keeping in mind money-spinning offshoots (vanilla pop songs by Rihanna and JLo? Check. Toy range spin-off? Check. Video game perhaps? Check, check.)
The story begins with the Boovs — an efficient little alien race that excels at “running away” from their dreaded enemies, the Gorgs — moving into a new safe haven, planet Earth, under the orders of their leader Captain Smek (Steve Martin). Among the Boovs is Oh (Jim Parsons), a happy-go-lucky misfit, who decides to throw a “warming up house party” as soon he gets to his new home. Of course, for the Boovs to move in, the humans who occupied those spaces have to be moved out, and they’re transported en masse to transit camps in places like the Australian Outback. Well, all the humans except for one teenage girl, Tip Tucci (Rihanna) and her cat, Pig.
Oh, as is his wont, soon gets into serious trouble after his “warming up party” e-invitation, with precise directions to the Boovs’ new home, gets sent to the entire galaxy (including the enemy Gorgs) instead of just a few friends. Under threat of arrest and being “erased”, Oh becomes a fugitive. Tip, on the other hand, decides to look for her mom who she was separated from during the relocation, come what may. Oh meets Tip, and they combine forces to deal with their respective predicaments.
Cue lots of sweet, getting to know each other moments, jokes, emotional exchanges, joyrides etc until our Tip and Oh become firm friends indeed. Along the way, there are Boovs to dodge, intergalactic battles to avert, and one human mom to find. So will Oh and Tip get to journey’s end? No prizes for guessing.
Jim Parsons invests Oh with much of his A.Q. (adorable quotient) and that really saves the movie as it coasts along in its humdrum, predictable way. He makes you care about Oh’s loneliness among the Boovs, and pulls off the comic sequences impeccably (a case in point is his rendition of the “death song” of the Boovs). The other comic relief is provided by Steve Martin as Captain Smek. A scene in which he discovers varied objects on Earth and reinterprets their uses (a tyre is used as a turban; a sheet of bubblewrap becomes a “stress blanket” on which he rolls around, to the satisfying sound of much popping). These standout acts make the film more than what it might have otherwise been.
Home is based on Adam Rex’s 2007 novel The True Meaning of Smekday. But the central theme in the film — gutsy human girl befriends cute/ugly alien who’s come to Earth — seems a little too close to 2002’s Lilo & Stitch, from the Disney stable. And when a Dreamworks film begins to look a lot like a Disney one, isn’t that a bit of a problem?...