Now a little over 20 years old, Dreamworks Studio has been responsible for some of the most successful and creative animated films in the uber-profitable animated film genre. The studio delivered the “Shrek,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Kung Fu Panda,” and “Madagascar” series, as well as two personal favorites, “Chicken Run” and the under-appreciated “Bee Movie.”
But Dreamworks’ new release is one of the studio’s first true duds. “Home” may be where the heart is, but this film demonstrates little tenderness or real emotion, and offers little besides colorful images and celebrity voices (and songs). One measure of a good family film is its ability to appeal to both adults and kids, but “Home” is unique in that doesn’t speak to either group. Adults will find the story trite, and it can’t be a good sign when you are sitting in a crowded auditorium filled with children and for most of the film you don’t hear a peep of laughter out of anyone.
Polite movie-going behavior is one thing. Hearing nothing but crickets during a Saturday afternoon screening of a big-budget family film is not good.
This failure is a little surprising given the celebrity voice talent involved, but it proves even great actors need a substantive script. The Boov is an alien race whose penchant for running from terror finds it on the run from the terrifying Gorg, landing on Earth and taking over the planet by relocating all the humans. One of the Boov, Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons), is an outlier among his kin, atypically outgoing and free-thinking, prone to mangling grammar (“I too has to break pee”). He meets strong-willed teenage girl Tip (Rihanna) who has been separated from her mom (Jennifer Lopez) and is determined to find her. The two contrasting strangers from different planets meet, work out their difficulties and bond in the process. (Awfully similar to the premise in Disney’s 2002 “Lilo & Stitch.”)
Parsons has been a revelation as Sheldon on TV’s “The Big Bang Theory,” where his annoying utterances are filled with wit and inspired self-absorption. But here he is more often simply annoying. Rhianna was a good choice for the voice of Tip, and we can’t get enough self-empowered confidant girl characters, but the story isn’t sharp or truly funny enough to keep us enthralled. A couple of pop songs performed by the chart-busting, well-pedigreed cast members are nice but forgettable.
“Home” should do well at the box office because there is so little family fare in theaters right now. Credit Dreamworks for releasing it between last year’s huge holiday season and the promising, crowded summer season around the corner, but there’s no compelling reason to leave your house to watch this “Home.”