When I first beheld previews for Dreamworks’ latest picture Home, I was basically expecting E.T. but with a dark-skinned girl as the human main character. Because if there’s anything the 2010s have taught us about filmmaking it’s that it’s okay if your movie is unoriginal if you change genders and races around and act as if that somehow aids the fight for equality, disregarding such drawbacks as, say, the movie itself being unthought-out, pointless and bad. Can’t wait ’til Ghostbusters 3, amirite?
Jokes aside, however, Home is a genuinely affective, brightly colorful and, for lack of a better word, cute children’s film and the casting of a black girl as its lead actually does feel like a genuine attempt to be more fresh and original, as well as inclusive to a more diverse audience of kids. It certainly doesn’t feel like a gimmick the existence of which relies on the popularity of an already perfect film that doesn’t require a remake. *cough* Ghostbusters 3 *cough*
Not to be confused with the epic documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand (I’ll have to review that too some day), Home revolves around a remarkably friendly alien species, the Boov, who come to our planet in search of refuge from the evil Gorg empire. Their leader is Captain Smek (Steve Martin) and their invasion consists of luring humans in with such things as ball pits and candy in order to relocate them to other parts of the Earth, allowing the Boov to settle in our now abandoned homes. As you can guess, the sugar-sweet paradise the humans are brought to excites the kids more than the adults. Later on, an adventurous but unpopular Boov, named Oh (Jim Parsons), comes in contact with a young girl named Tip (Rihanna of renowned Battleship fame), who blames the Boov for separating her from her mother, voiced by Jennifer Lopez, during the initial invasion.
The two meet when Oh is on the run from his alien compatriots and Tip is just minding her own business in a convenience store. After a chase scene that involves Oh transforming Tip’s car into a hovering craft that runs on slushies, Oh tries to assure Tip that he’ll help her locate her lost mother. The two embark on an adventure that takes them to a Boov Command Center in France and then to Australia, all while the other Boov are looking for them and, worse yet, the Gorg are coming closer and closer to Earth. The Gorg Leader is voiced by Brian Stepanek, whom you might remember as the crazy inventor from Zack and Cody. An unexpected choice, I’ll give the movie that.
Even though I like Dreamworks better when they do something grand and epic like How To Train Your Dragon, or heck, back in the day when they made dark comedies like Antz, I will say that it delights me that they’re trying to do something more similar in spirit to Rise of The Guardians. A film that, even if adults might get bored by it, is still a good film to show kids and certainly not obnoxious like Shark Tale or a cash-grab like Penguins. You gotta look at the bright side sometimes, folks.
In other words, this is definitely not one of Dreamworks’ edgier or darker films. Home has a very bright and sweetly inviting visual style and some of the imagery early on made me think of the 2012 version of The Lorax, except it didn’t make me want to murder puppies and Hollywood executives.
The movie’s look is complemented by entertaining characters. Kids will enjoy and laugh at the Boov, as well as Oh’s misinformed attempts to understand how life on Earth works, and they will more than likely be enthralled in Tip’s story, meaning the filmmakers did manage to do a “push towards diversity” right, i.e. by making a character worth caring for and not merely something to put on posters to make Tumblr bloggers happy. Even Rihanna’s voice acting isn’t too bad.
My favourite thing about the movie, undoubtedly, is the creativity of the alien technology. Early in the film, we see the Boov release things that look like soap bubbles, except they seemingly eradicate whatever solid matter they come in direct contact with when they pop, if I saw correctly. For an alien species that seems so obsessed with providing fun and happiness, that seemed pretty deadly. We also find out some interesting and funny facts about what life was like for the Boov before they came to our planet and there was something about the way their pigmentation kept changing based on their mood that made them extra fun to watch.
I will make it the bottom line that this is, after all, a sweet little movie with good characters, gripping enough a story for young viewers, and a step towards diversity that feels genuine and isn’t used for some pathetic marketing technique that’s apparently more important than the movie itself, *cough* Ghost- *cough* busters *cough* 3. Here is the trailer, followed by my final rating: