Friday, May 8, 2015

Home Review

I've been hearing that Dreamworks is not doing so well these days. The animated features they have released over the last couple of years that were not sequels to already successful franchises were box office flops; Rise of the Guardians, Turbo, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman did pretty poorly. Their latest film, Home (2015), is has been doing quite well in the box office. I wasn't thrilled to see it after seeing it's  mediocre trailer, but some friends invited me to see it with them and I ended up enjoying it a whole lot!
After a hive-minded alien race called the Boov conquer Earth, lead by Captain Smek (Steve Martin). The Boov relocate the planet's human population -- all except for a little girl named Tip (Rihanna), who has managed to hide from the aliens. When Tip meets a fugitive Boov named Oh (Jim Parsons), there's mutual distrust. However, Oh is not like his comrades; he craves friendship and fun. As their distrust fades, the pair set out together to find Tip's mother, but, unbeknown to them, the Gorg -- enemies of the Boov -- are en route.
Home has some good and bad things going for it, though frankly the bad points are easy to forgive. The story is predictable; anyone over the age of 10 will see the plot twists from a mile away. I daresay it's a formulaic family movie that is about, surprise surprise, family. The character designs and action tends to be pretty darn creative. I can't think of another instance where our protagonists hide from aliens in a flying car powered by convenience store junk food or drive soap bubbles to outrun the Eiffel Tower. Conventional as the story and its structure may be, it ends up being a fun, simple delight to watch. Even as the end of the movie approached, I didn't fully anticipate the final plot twist; so it's not as if it fails completely in this regard.
The real strength comes from the dialogue. The exchanges between Tip and Oh are simply hilarious. Even though she is a kid, Tip is self confident and a bit on the sassy side. Oh is a mess of contradictions; he wants to socialize and have friends, but he's demonstrably not good at it; he wants to live comfortably, but is somewhat uptight. On top of that, Oh's speech patterns are a little inaccurate, but in a charming and amusing way. This makes for some funny scenes between the two characters. In one of their early encounters, Tip locks Oh in a convenience store walk in refrigerator. A little hurt by being trapped, Oh asks, "What for are you did this? I am Boov, beloved of all humans." "I know what you are." Tip replies coldly. "Excellent. Can I come into the out now?" Nearly everything Oh says is amusing on some level.
In another hilarious scene Tip turns on some music which causes involuntary physical responses from Oh. In a panic Oh says, "Confusion. What is happening to my body?" "It's called dancing." Tip explains. "Boovs do not dancing." "I can tell. But you're getting the hang of it." "How long before this kills me? I am not in control of my own extremities." Tip tries to encourage Oh, "That's it. Work it." "I do not want it to work." "Hey, you know what? Boov rhymes with groove. Shake your Boov thing." "It is shaking in a most undignified way. Oh no, my hands are in the air as if I just do not care. This is not how a Boov behaves." The two characters are lots of fun and bounce off of each other delightfully. They are so fun to watch together that it tends to overshadow the predictability of the story.
This is a family movie that talks about how great families are. This is an overused theme that essentially every family movie has used for decades, but it keeps being used because it's a nice message that we like to believe in. But "families are great" isn't the only thing that this movie addresses; it beautifully weaves together many themes which makes it more interesting. It tackles ideas like what defines a home, taking things versus being given things, communication, understanding things from another's perspective, mutual respect, sacrifice for others, and how deeply the emotional bonds to one's family are. I think I've seen such thematic elements achieved more successfully by other movies, but this one addresses many of them together in a succinct and logical way without beating you over the head with it. It made the movie even better, and even touching at times.
I had low expectations for Home. thanks to an advertising campaign that focused more on funny characters acting silly and making pop culture references than it did on boasting its good animation, charming characters, multilayered themes, or even the plot. The poor advertisements and trailers notwithstanding,  Home has done quite well in the box office. I think this is worth the cost of a matinee ticket if it perks your interest; it was better than I expected it to be. I may not go out of my way to get my own copy, but I'm glad I saw it. It's worth renting at the very least.

Some family movies about families are so painfully trope ridden and cliche they are painful to watch. What's another family movie about families that really did a good job? Comment below and tell me about it!

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