As far as mild animated distractions go, one could do a lot worse than 2015’s Home. Tim Johnson directs this movie loosely based on Adam Rex’s 2007 book The True Meaning of Smekday, which contends with an odd group of aliens who invade Earth. The screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember doesn’t reinvent the wheel or pad Rex’s story to any significant degree, but it’s passable.
Everything about Home is passable, which may or may not be a good thing. Johnson, who has directed a string of mediocre animated films like Over the Hedge, doesn’t try to do much of anything with this material and weaves a one-dimensional tale that leans on clichés and musical cues to get by. But there’s something buoyant about it, plus a lot of the gags are rather amusing.
The film opens by introducing the Boov, a cowardly alien species constantly looking for a place to call home. They’re led by Captain Smek (Steve Martin), who leads the Boov to take over Earth “in a friendly way.” They simply relocate the human beings and live in the space left behind. One of the Boov, Oh (Jim Parson), is not well-liked.
Tip (Rihanna), a young girl, is looking for her mother Lucy (Jennifer Lopez) after the alien invasion. She comes in contact with the rejected Oh and they form an unlikely bond, with the alien running from the rest of the Boov and Tip searching for her mom. When it turns out that Oh has accidentally revealed the location of the Boov to the vicious Gorg, the trouble escalates further.
Home is kind of a buddy road movie, with Oh and Tip forging a friendship as they cruise across the planet in a car called Slushious. It’s called Slushious because it runs on slushies and other convenience store accoutrements, which means that it fires nachos and cheese and has a special hot dog dispenser. It also spits lottery tickets and makes a little “ding” sound when people get in. So that’s cute.
Oh and the rest of the Boov speak in a kind of damaged English, which means they flip idioms around frequently and don’t quite know how to express themselves. It’s not that they aren’t saying actual words. It’s that they don’t know how to use those words. Sometimes, however, they exhibit bewildering cunning. Case in point: “Can I come into the out now?” manages to be one of the movie’s best lines.
Parsons seems to be the perfect person to voice Oh. He’s kind of exasperating and kind of adorable, which seems to be the point. And Martin naturally steals his scenes as Captain Smek, especially when he starts to desperately defend Boov traditions. He upholds his spinelessness as a virtue, using the “shusher” to silence any and all opposition.
Rihanna is less effective as the protagonist, but Tip is a less effective character to begin with. She’s on a cliché-ridden search for her mother and that’s obviously going to hurt one’s chances at being inventive, but there’s also little by way of depth to speak of. Rihanna’s tones are all over the map, plus she provides a great deal of the soundtrack. That makes things feel a little weird at times.
The animation of Home is of the bright and gaudy variety. The Boov aren’t exactly the most original of aliens. They turn different colours for different reasons and zip around without much majesty, plus their world never feels expansive. Earth, too, is remarkably small – especially when one considers that the entire population has been bumped to a relatively tiny patch of the globe.
There’s no good reason to recommend Home when there are better animated films out there from 2015, like Inside Out or Shaun the Sheep Movie. That said, this film is a mostly innocuous blotch of fuzz that bounces and bounds around without doing much of anything. It takes a meek formula, throws in a heap of Rihanna and twirls out the soppy contents in sugary but hollow fashion. Bottoms up.