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Rating

Directed by Tim Johnson. Featuring the voices of Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Martin, Matt Jones, Nigel W. Tierney. Written by Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember. Written by Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember, from the book “The True Meaning of Smekday” by Adam Rex.

Note: Home is screening in a Czech-dubbed version in most Prague venues, but you can catch it in English at select cinemas. Check showtimes for English-language listings. 

A race of colorful, non-threatening, gender-neutral aliens takes over the world – in entirely non-violent fashion – in Dreamworks Animation’s Home, a familiar and generic but whirlwind fast-paced affair that will appeal most to those young enough to be easily entertained by the wide variety of colors and sounds that flow freely from the screen.

There’s also positive-message themes about friendship and not fitting in here, so parents can feel good about sitting their kids in front of this a 90-minute diversion. 

Still, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy Home’s fast & loose nature: while the material feels thin and underdeveloped, the characters and setting are at least somewhat fresh; after waves of animated sequels from Dreamworks (the last being Penguins of Madagascar, just a few months old), here’s at least an original-feeling property. 

Adapted by Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember (Epic, Get Smart) from Adam Rex’s 2007 children’s novel The True Meaning of Smekday, Home (what’s up with the bland title change, by the way?) opens with some scene-setting narration from alien creature Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons), who details how the Boov race has migrated to Earth.

The Boov are purple creatures with six stumpy legs that change color based on emotion, turning red when they’re angry or green when they’re fibbing. Their technology includes spherical bubbles that transport them to the planet and erase walls, identifying devices that collect floating piles of garbage in the air, and iPad-like mobile tech that can send party invites to everybody. Everybody

Oh – so named because of the eye-rolling greeting he gets from other Boov whenever he turns up – finds this out the hard way when he inadvertently presses a “send all” that will notify Boov enemies of their position on Earth. Cute idea, but crucial plot point? 

While Oh takes it on the lam after Boov leader Captain Smek (Steve Martin) orders his arrest, last-remaining human Gratuity ‘Tip’ Tucci (Rihanna) and her cat Pig plan to find Tip’s mother (Jennifer Lopez), who was abducted and sent to a suburban paradise on Australia with the rest of mankind.

Of course, Oh and Tip’s storylines will merge, and while the duo are initially wary of each other, they’ll learn a thing or two about trust and friendship along the way. Home goes exactly where we expect it to, but it’s an agreeable journey throughout, with some inventive use of Earth products (love that Slurpee-powered car) and locations (the aliens use Paris’ Eiffel Tower as a base of operations). 

Parsons, Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, mixes his usual nerdy shtick with the Boov take on English – something like Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd’s Czech Festrunk Brothers from SNL. But somehow, Parson’s ingratiating little alien gets to you – it’s his character’s arc, and not Tip’s journey, that lies at the heart of the film. 

Rihanna gets to sing Towards the Sun, As Real as You and Me, and Dancing in the Dark (note: not a Springsteen remix) on the soundtrack – the latter gets especially grating by the third time it’s repeated, in full. Lopez’s mother character has almost nothing to do here, but she gets her own single, Feel the Light; Martin is fun as the Smek leader, and the only other character of note is Oh’s reluctant “friend” Kyle, voiced by Matt Jones. 

Vividly realized by director Tim Johnson (Antz, Over the Hedge), with some imaginative creature and technology designs and an appealing central vocal performance from Parsons, Home might not offer up much new story-wise, but it’s awfully tough to dislike.


Jason Pirodsky

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Jason Pirodsky made his way to Prague via Miami and has stuck around, for better and worse, since 2004. A member of the Online Film Critics Society (www.ofcs.org), some of his favorite movies include O Lucky Man!, El Topo, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Hellzapoppin'. Follow him on Twitter for some (slightly) more concise reviews.

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