Friday, March 27, 2015

Shake Your Boov Thing: HOME

Home is the sweetest, sunniest alien invasion movie you’ll ever see. It starts when the Boov come to Earth looking for refuge, having fled across the galaxy pursued by the Gorg. Following the Boov motto, “Run away,” they just need a place to hide their little purple squishy square bodies, a respite for their mood-ring skin, rest after so much scurrying around on floppy tentacles. They’re cute, awkward, and pushy, relocating all the humans to a pop-up internment village in Australia. They stretch out across the rest of the globe, content to stay hidden forever from the Gorg – a planet-busting warrior starfish in a big mechanical triangle. That doesn’t sound so sweet or sunny, but the Boov mean well, and they don’t do anything that can’t be undone.

The story concerns a human girl, Tip (Rihanna), who has been stranded in New York, separated from her loving, worried mother (Jennifer Lopez). Hiding from the Boov, Tip stumbles across Oh (Jim Parsons), a loveable oddball alien who just made a big mistake that’ll lead the Gorg right to Earth and is thus on the run from his fellow people. They’re both outsiders. She’s an immigrant from Barbados. He’s disliked by every Boov. “I don’t fit in. I fit out,” he sadly reports in his Boov-ian broken English. And so they reluctantly realize they can help each other, and maybe even set the topsy-turvy world right side up again. What follows is a chipper and pleasant sci-fi road trip about cross-species understanding.

Now in its second decade, DreamWorks Animation has moved away from gimmicky pop culture comedies and become a reliable source of charming animated adventures. Home, directed by Tim Johnson (Over the Hedge) from a screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember (Epic) based on a kid’s book by Adam Rex, hits all the expected beats of such a project. It’s a cute adventure that’s a standard family film message machine. Be yourself. Be kind. Do the right thing. But it manages to be energetic and enjoyable without stooping to snark or collateral damage. It comes by its entertainment earnestly.

Especially lovable is its design, a soft world of round edges and a vibrant color palate. It looks comfortable, from floating futuristic orbs manipulating gravity to a fuzzy cat who spends most of the movie purring. The alien invasion conceit is both a fine hook treated with some degree of seriousness, and also a great joke. The Boov are never threatening, with a bumbling leader voiced by Steve Martin leading them towards misunderstandings of Earth ways. He rides a vacuum – at one point motoring into a meeting yelling, “I vacuumed here as fast as I could!” – wears oranges as shoes, and eats footballs like fruit. With this culture clash, they come from a believably goofy place, with bubble-hovercraft and PlaySkool-adjacent gadgets delightfully rendered in cutesy alien styles.

Even better is the film’s matter-of-factly diverse cast of human characters. It’s easy to imagine a weaker movie falling into Hollywood reluctance, defaulting the story to a typical white father-son journey. It didn’t have to be about women of color. And yet it is about a girl from a particular background with all the specificity she brings, a welcome sight. What a powerful statement, saying animated adventures can be about anyone, a message all the more powerful for its off-hand acceptance. It simply is part of the fabric of a story about finding value in everyone, no matter how different you might think they are at first glance.

At its heart is the odd couple of Tip and Oh, loveable, expressive, heartfelt characters. That the girl and the alien become good buddies is no surprise. The film’s not exactly breaking new narrative ground. But it’s a movie of warm, kindhearted vibes, with likable visual humor and cozy voice performances. Rihanna and J.Lo are a convincing, connected mother-daughter pair. Parsons has an open silly wonderment to his blundering alien voice. And Martin’s antagonist is a perfect blatantly ridiculous hot-air machine ready to be punctured. The story is gentle, never mean-spirited. It’s an appealing, good-looking, well-intentioned entertainment that’s full of cheerful imagination and all the right messages handled with a light touch.

No comments:

Post a Comment