‘Home’ Continues Trend of So-So Animated Films

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CHICAGO – What was once an “event” – even the the most medium level animated film was a rare movie occasion – has now become commonplace in the film market. Once that tipping point was reached, suddenly the event became just another weekend, with just another film like “Home.”

To be fair, “Home” is aimed toward the younger set, who likes bathroom jokes and gags using nacho cheese (in 3D!), but on the adult level, these films have become a bit cynical, more marketing vehicles than notable works. Like last year’s “The Nut Job” and “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return,” the formula seems to be get some familiar stars to do voice work, create a extreme concept or easy-to-follow story, and market, market, market to the kiddies. Who suffers for these economic model sins? The parents paying the 3D premium – the price level of which is up to a decent seat on Broadway in the 1980s – and then those same parents have to endure the 90 minutes of splashy colors and cheap jokes without narcotics (kidding). “Home” follows the formula to perfection.

An optimistic yet inept alien race called the Boov invade earth to find a new home, and hide from their mortal enemy – the Gorg – and are led in this endeavor by Captain Smek (voice of Steve Martin), their goofy leader. The humans on earth are being relocated, but a resourceful 13 year girl named Gratuity (Rihanna, nicknamed “Tip”) manages to avoid capture, but is separated from her single mother Lucy (Jennifer Lopez).

Jim Parsons, Rihanna
Oh (Voice of Jim Parsons) Meets Tip (Rihanna) in ‘Home’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

Through a series of odd coincidences, Tip runs into a Boov named Oh (Jim Parsons), who is on the run because he has inadvertently informed the Gorg as to the Earth location where the Boov are hiding. So faster than you can say mismatched wacky pair, Tip and Oh are on the road to find Momma and save the world.

Again, there is nothing offensive or blatantly bad in the story, which is adapted from a children’s book. It’s just so simple and common, it seems like there is a standard animation script that is dusted off every few years, and matched to whatever goofy character or story that can be imagined. In this case it is the Boov, so this time it’s an alien/human road picture to find Mom. Story wise, we’ve heard that song before, even those songs that Rihanna and J-Lo contribute to the soundtrack.

The Boov themselves are designed to constantly shift colors depending on their mood, which is a bit trippy, but there is nothing distinct in their animated “look” – which reminded me of an octopus wall walker, with multiple legs and tentacles. The locations go from American urban city to Paris to Australia, and soars over the ocean in a flying car, so that’s pretty nifty. But whenever the story shifts back to Boov versus Gorg, the kids might start their afternoon naps.

There is some high powered voiceover stars in “Home,” led mostly by the frantic exclamations of Jim Parsons (“Big Bang Theory”) as Oh. Rihanna is properly teenage-like in voicing Tip, so the two of them have pretty good chemistry. And it may be just me, but it seemed like Steve Martin was phoning it in. My question to Steve, has he read any script – beyond the dollar amount he will receive – in the last 15 years? Also parents, the Boov speaks in sort of pidgin English, which either symbolically realizes their alien status or is a characteristic designed to annoy, and will annoy you further once it comes out on home video.

Jim Parsons, Rihanna
Mood Level is Code Yellow in ‘Home’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

Yet, if the musical laughter of the children at the preview was any indication, “Home” will do fine as a time killer on Saturday afternoon. There are marvelous colors in the show, and director Tim Johnson uses some nice perspective shots that expand the cartoon universe. The technology has allowed more animated features every year, but the creativity and wit of script will never catch up to it, if it’s just about churning out features that are “okay for kids.”

It is said that everything “The Jetsons” had in that early 1960s cartoon, we now have – except flying cars. Well, “Home” has a flying car, powered by slushy flavors from a 7-11 knockoff. Never underestimate the power of “Busta Lime.”

”Home” opens everywhere on March 27th in 3D and regular screenings. See local listings for 3D theaters and show times. Featuring the voices of Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez and Brian Stepanek. Screenplay adapted by Tom J. Astie and Matt Ember. Directed by Tim Johnson. Rated “PG

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2015 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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