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Family Movie Review: Home (PG)

Home ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernalhalf-popcorn-kernal

MPAA Rating: PG       Length: 94 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 6+. The film is about a race of aliens invading Earth and separating a middle-schooler from her mother, and then an unlikely friendship develops between the girl and one of the aliens, an outsider from the rest of his species. Some bathroom-humor jokes, jokes about violence, and some slight danger from another alien race who supposedly destroys planets.

‘Home’ is pleasant enough, but its lack of distinguishing characteristics—in both animation design and narrative structure—are an undeniable problem.

By Roxana Hadadi

Movie plots become more and more predictable all the time, and if there is a genre for which that holds the most true, it’s children’s movies. Can you imagine if the reboot of “Cinderella” hadn’t paired her up with the prince? Or if “Big Hero 6” didn’t have a heroic conclusion for its puffiest character? For young audiences, it’s often the ending that is the most expected that they want the most, and it’s how the film gets there that matters.

The issue with “Home,” then, isn’t that the ending is unsurprising, but that the preceding 90 or so minutes are particularly devoid of anything unique. Nothing that creative about the animation, nothing that insightful about the story. “Home” is pleasant, but it never does anything truly unexpected or daring, or even insightful or funny. The general message is your family is where your home is, or your home is where your family is, or you can choose your own family, or you can choose your own family and also your own home? Or something like that?

The film focuses on two characters: The alien Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons, of “The Muppets”), of the Boov race. They are, according to Oh, “the best species ever at running away”; for years they’ve been chased by another group of aliens, the Gorg, and so they find a planet they think they can hide on, move the native inhabitants around, make the planet their own for a little while, and then move out whenever they hear the Gorg, who destroy said planets, are coming. This has been the general setup under the Boov leader, the esteemed Captain Smek (voiced by Steve Martin, of “The Big Year”), and now they’ve decided to move to Earth. “They will never find us here!” everyone thinks, and so the Boov touch down on the planet, moving the people to pre-built communities called “Happy Humanstown” and resettling wherever they please to begin their hideout.

But Oh isn’t like the other Boov. He has more possessions, he’s more excitable, and he wants to have a housewarming party, so he sends an evite to the entire galaxy … meaning that the Gorg receive it, too, and find out where the Boov are hiding. With only 40 or so hours until the message arrives in the Gorg’s email inbox, Oh becomes a fugitive—and almost immediately meets up with human girl Tip (voiced by Rihanna, of “Annie”), herself hiding from the Boov after being separated from her mother during the human resettling. Unsure of where her mother is and desperate that she’ll never find her again, Tip offers Oh a compromise: She’ll help him evade capture if he helps her travel to Paris, the Boov headquarters, and learn where her mother was moved.

A simple-enough trade, right? But obstacles arrive in the form of Tip’s broken car, in various Boov sent to track Oh, in Captain Smek’s haughtiness, and so on, all of which get in the way of reuniting Tip with her mother. And what about Oh? He doesn’t fit in with his fellow aliens, and his growing friendship with the courageous, gregarious Tip is at odds with his more contained, fearful Boov personality. Will they learn from each other during this unlikely journey? We all know the answer to that.

But there’s just not much here, sadly. The character development is mostly skimpy (Tip is an immigrant from Barbados who had a rough go of it at her new middle school; Oh is an overbearing try-hard who turns off practically everyone with his social awkwardness), and the connection between Tip and Oh doesn’t go much deeper than “they don’t fit into their respective groups.” Also slightly irritating is that the Boov aliens have all the negative attributes in comparison with humans and, ultimately, decide to “better” themselves by being more like us—can’t they have some positive characteristics of their own? It feels like not that much thought went into the Boov aside from their production design (change colors depending on emotions; have ears that move of their own volition; kind of look like the Minions from the “Despicable Me” films), and without a clear idea of their society or culture, caring about them or Oh just doesn’t come easily.

There’s also the fact that people either love Parsons due to his long tenure on the popular television show “The Big Bang Theory” or find him irritating and one-note for the same reason; I fall into the latter category, and his voice performance just feels like more of the same from him. Rihanna fares better (her role calls for more emotion, and she inflicts well), but then practically every scene features one of her songs, and the cross-promotion between this film and its soundtrack becomes frustrating, too. When a film doesn’t have that much else going for it, the annoying things stick out, and that’s one of them.

So it’s not that “Home” is a bad film, but an aggressively middle-of-the-road one. Its characters are sparsely defined but fine, its visual design is gimmicky (Captain Smek replacing international landmarks with his face, for example) but fine; its message about loving yourself and your family is superficial but fine. It will do for 90 minutes or so, but “Home” will never be your favorite.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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