Everyone knows somebody who is well-intentioned but, for the most part pretty inept at just about everything they try. They’re one of those people who shows up and offers to help and you struggle to find a way to just keep them out of the way so they don’t cause any collateral damage.
Oh, the main character in Home is that entity for the Boov. The Boov are a race of aliens who are all about both efficiency and running away. After all, running away is a very effective way to stay alive, especially when faced with the Gorg, a race of aliens that seem to want to eradicate the Boov from the universe.
On their most recent flight from the fearsome Gorg, the Boov have selected the planet Earth. They quickly relocate the human inhabitants to Australia and begin making themselves at home. Oh just wants to make friends, so he invites everyone to his house party. When he invites everyone, that includes the Gorg. Naturally, Oh’s fellow Boov are not happy with him. He becomes a fugitive.
Then there’s Gratuity “Tip” Tucci, a girl who missed being relocated by the Boov. She has been separated from her mother and is now on a quest to find her. Of course, she and Oh cross paths. The two of them form an uneasy alliance to try to stop Oh’s invite from reaching the Gorg and to find Tip’s mom.
“Home” is a bright movie. It definitely has a Caribbean candy color palette, full of vivid aquas, brilliant purples, electric lime, and sunny yellow. It could have ended up an eye-searing combination, instead, it’s well orchestrated to be vibrant and fun. The Boov themselves change color according to mood, which adds some comedy and even more color to the film.
The animation style brings to mind, of all things, gummy candy. There’s a softened, gel-like quality to the Boov themselves, though they’re not transparent. They have arms, but their legs are a collection of tentacle-like appendages. They move with a bouncing quality, as if the ends of their feet stick to the floor slightly. And, of course, they’re designed to look pretty cute. Boov don’t look exactly like anything on Earth, but there is enough about them to be familiar and make them look non-threatening.
“Home” has a lot of detail in it. It’s easily one of the most distinctive looking computer animated movies that I’ve seen for a while. The character designs have a consistency to them that I’ve missed with the move away from hand-drawn animation. There were some differences, but not quite enough to distinguish each studios’ particular style, and then, it was often a game of nitpicking flaws. One of the most noticeable differences I see in “Home” is that the people don’t look quite as plasticky as in other animated movies. The expressions move more naturally and the eyes certainly look more alive. It’s a nice step up in the evolution of computer animated human characters.
The real star of this show, though, is the writing. Oh is an endearing little outcast. He speaks with an awkward syntax that shows a decent grasp of English as a language, but entirely misses a lot of the nuances and the idioms. It makes him both quotable and hilarious. While there are times that you do have to think about interpreting what Oh meant and what he actually said, it doesn’t take too long and it’s not a distraction from the movie.
Tip is written as a smart kid who’s out of her depth, after all, she’s much too young to be on her own, but she’s competent. In most ways, Tip is far more adept at assessing a situation and dealing with it than Oh is. Part of that is Tip’s understanding of the human world, part of it is that Tip isn’t an idiot. She sees what’s going on around her and she just deals with it, however it happens. After seeing way too many little girls in movies written as either bratty or whiny, I have to say that seeing Tip making plans and saving herself makes me very happy. She’s kind to Oh and tries to be understanding, but she doesn’t let herself be a doormat, either. Tip has goals and she’s in every position to achieve them. She’s not operating under any illusion that finding her mom is going to fix everything, she wants to find her mom because Tip loves her. It’s a simple motivation, but it’s also got to be one of the most realistic ones the writers could have picked.
The vocal cast is fantastic. Jim Parsons gives Oh the necessary awkwardness without making him annoying. Oh sounds like he truly wants to understand what is happening around him and he takes responsibility for his part in the mess that he created. He knows that he messed up, but it’s really Tip that gives him the courage he needs to try to fix the mistake. Parsons has a voice that expresses every variation of surprise, from delighted to disgruntled, clearly. He imparts Oh’s sense of wonder into the dialog without making Oh sound naively child-like. Oh isn’t a baby, and he never sounds or acts like one.
Rihanna voices Tip. Tip sounds a little bit tough, but never seems jaded. She’s the kind of girl who has the grit to go find her mom after the aliens showed up, but who will also retain every hope of being able to find her mom. She never sounded older than she should, nor did she sound too young. That had to have been a very tough balance to strike with a character like Tip. Tip also had to express frustration and anger, but also be a fairly normal, nice kid. Rihanna’s voice absolutely just worked for that character.
Captain Smek’s voice was provided by none other than Steve Martin. Smek is arrogant and utterly convinced of his own superiority. He is the leader because he carries the shusher. His voice had to sound pompous and grandiose, and Martin plays him like the slickest, do nothing boss who takes all the credit you hope you never have to meet. It’s a character, to be sure, and Martin clearly had fun playing Smek, it shows in the delivery of the lines, which are offered with such gusto it’s impossible not to smile every time Smek is on screen.
Of course, “Home” looks cute, but it’s elevated beyond that by the humor in it. Most kids probably aren’t going to relate to the “send all” disaster that gets Oh into the mess in the first place. The adults bringing them to this movie, though, will get it right away. Most adults have dealt with a Smek, and seeing one actually get called out, even if he’s animated and purple, really feels good. And, I’m sure, a lot of us have had our Oh moments.
It’s a sweet movie, but “Home” is also funny and fun to watch. It’s a pretty decent sci-fi flick and it’s certainly popcorn-worthy. It’s the kind of movie that geeky parents ought to be more than happy to watch with their starry-eyed little sprockets.