‘Home’ is the latest candy-colored, family-friendly CGI babysitter and there really isn’t much more to say about it beyond that. Sure, it starts out with a pretty clever premise (taken from a popular children’s book), but quickly devolves into a collection of very familiar clichés.
The film is inoffensive and dull. It offers nothing older viewers haven’t seen before, and hopes that the youngsters in the target audience haven’t seen enough movies yet to notice. Perhaps the filmmakers are right in that assumption, but it doesn’t mean they were right to shove this mediocrity into the world.
The movie opens with a cuddly collection of color-changing aliens known as the Boov taking over Earth. They do so in as friendly a manner as possible, using broken English to round up all of humanity and send them to Australia so that the Boov can claim the rest of the planet as their new home – at least until another alien race who they’re perpetually fleeing from discovers their new location. Our hero is a lovable little Boov named Oh (Jim Parsons). He’s the only Boov who wants to make friends and be social with humans, which means he’s ostracized from the rest of his species. However, he makes his first friend in a little girl named Tip (Rihanna, who also provides songs for the soundtrack) and agrees to help her find her mother (Jennifer Lopez, who provides more songs for the soundtrack). So, the movie is made up of their buddy-bonding journey that teaches us all lessons about being selfless and being ourselves. Whatever.
In the early going, some laughs and clever concepts get flung up on the screen. The passive-aggressive alien race is a fun idea, and their leader is voiced by Steve Martin, who gets a couple of laughs when he’s given the chance. Unfortunately, the filmmakers abandon all the good ideas in the movie just as quickly as they introduce them. Once the alien/child buddy comedy kicks in, nothing of interest happens. The script is a pure paint-by-numbers affair, checking off all the most tediously overused family film clichés one-by-one without ever attempting to do anything new with those tired devices – or even for a second trying to pretend that this isn’t a blatant remake of ‘Lilo & Stitch’.
Boredom sets in quickly for anyone who has seen any similar movie before, and the filmmakers make the deadly mistake of never properly endearing the audience to Oh. It’s tricky to present a character who’s supposed to be annoying to the other characters in a movie without that character irritating the hell out of the audience too. Get it right and you’ve got a C-3P0. Get it wrong and you’ve got Jar Jar Binks. Sadly, Oh fails the Jar Jar test.
Given that this is a big and glossy CGI production, the movie is indeed pleasingly big and glossy on the eyes. The only trouble is that audiences are so accustomed to big, glossy CGI animation at this point that it’s not particularly impressive anymore. Now you need an interesting story and characters to make these movies fly, and ‘Home’ offers none of that (although everything has been calculated for maximum merchandising potential). Likewise, the star voice-casting of Rhianna and Lopez is uninspired, and thanks to their latest crappy songs clogging up the soundtrack, their presence is little more than one more gratingly commercial calculation in a movie defined by them.
All that being said, ‘Home’ is not an unwatchable train wreck like Disney’s ‘Planes’ or its sequel. It’s perfectly mediocre and presses the right buttons to please undemanding child audiences. However, kids deserve better than barrel-scraping entertainment, even if they aren’t yet jaded enough to recognize when they’re being manipulated. ‘Home’ will probably make money since it’s been designed to do little else, but hopefully it’ll make at least a few kids notice that they’ve seen these tricks before and demand a little something more the next time they get their parents to take them to the theater.