DREAMWORKS’S NEWEST ANIMATION
CAN NOT FIND ITS WAY HOME
Beginning with Shrek in 2004, DreamWorks Animation SKG rose fast to be one of the primary animated film studios (surpassing Disney animated features and seconded to Disney’s animated partner Pixar Studios). Recently, however, the studio has hit a rough patch with recent animated tales such as Rise of the Guardians, Turbo, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and Penguins of Madagascar not recouping the large box office numbers that past features did. Moreover, the company recently reported a profit loss in its 4th quarter for 2014 with a drop 11%, forcing them reorganize their company and reassess future plans. DreamWorks Animation now releases their first film of the 2015 year with its 31st animated movie titled Home. Does this latest cartoon film reach for the stars or crash to earth?
The easily frightened alien race known as “The Boov” have meticulous streamlined the taking over of planets and, under the leadership of Captain Smek (Steve Martin), have set their sights on Earth as their new safe haven planet to call home. With the takeover of Earth running smoothly (all the humans of the world safely are relocated to Australia), Oh (Jim Parsons), a particular clumsy and whimsical Boov who doesn’t have many friends, attempts to throw a housewarming party for his neighbors. When his email invite is accidentally sent to the entire galaxy, Captain Smek and the rest of Boov are concerned that the Gorg (the boov’s enemy) will come to attack Earth, forcing Boov to flee from their new world. Fearing his arrest, Oh goes the run and comes across a human girl named Gratuity “Tip” Tucci (Rihanna) and feline cat named Pig. Left behind when the Boov took control of Earth, Tip is determined to find her mother Lucy (Jennifer Lopez) and teams up with Oh to search for her, while trying to evade Boov security in an alien manhunt for Oh.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I said above, DreamWorks is slowly falling from grace with its animated features not being as good past entries. I’ve seeing all the recent DreamWorks animations and, with the exception of How to Train Your Dragon 2, have to agree that studio’s movies have been subpar, dull, and not as exciting or entertaining as they used to be. Taking a chance, the company sought out the rights to Adam Rex’s children book titled The True Meaning of Smekday, tweaking the story here and there for its theatrical release of Home. Unfortunately, DreamWorks seems to keeping up with its recent movie trend as Home doesn’t quite rise to the occasion and takes a directional step backwards rather than forwards.
Tim Johnson, director of past DreamWorks animations like Antz, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, and Over the Hedge, helms Home and, like I said above, tweaks the original source material for a kid friendly feature that’s complete with cute characters, celebrity voice talents, and pop culture music. However, the main problem with Home is that it has an obvious comparison to Disney’s 2002 animation Lilo & Stitch. As a whole, Lilo & Stitch was quite literally a better film, perfectly juggling its characters, its storytelling, its comedy, and its action. Home seems somewhat unsure of itself; coming across as dull and predictable, and, in comparison to Lilo & Stitch, seems like a lower quality in telling a story of a human girl befriending an alien from outer space.
In the past, DreamWorks animated movies have been (for the most part) more gear towards older kids and / or dealt with subjects and scenarios matters that are thematically deep. Perhaps it’s for this reason why that Home falters as the movie seems much more juvenile and gear towards younger children. Sure, it touches on themes of being different and acceptance (which still fundamentally good for everyone to learn), but the film feels half-baked with its story haphazardly running along at a brisk pace that cobbles up too many conclusion endings for an hour and half tale. Even the jokes and gags found in Home’s comedy are flat and more regulated towards style of elementary school “pee-pee” jokes. In short, Home isn’t very engaging towards adults and has a difficult time landing its own plane.
On the plus side, Home does have some interesting production designs. The Boov technology is all bubble based and the ways the use the bubbles for everyday usage is quite amusing. While the animation is good (on par with today’s level of cartoon features), the design of the Boov themselves are pretty unqiue with their skin changing color to reflect their current emotional mood. The Boov are also quite adorable looking with facial expressions of personality and colorful charm. The music featured Home is also catchy especially Rihanna’s “Dancing in the Dark” and Jennifer Lopez’s heartfelt song “Feel the Light”.
As far as voice talents goes, Jim Parson is pretty good as the eternally optimistic, but socially inept Boov named Oh. Parson, who is famous for his iconic role of Sheldon Cooper on TV show The Big Bang Theory, fits the character perfectly and is the strong focal point as Home’s alien protagonist. Musical sensation Rihanna provides the voice work for Tip Tucci, Home’s human protagonist, and does a good job for being her first attempt in voicing in an animated cartoon. Some might criticize her voice not matching her character, but I found nothing wrong with it. Lastly, legendary comedian Steve Martin does the voice of the Boov leader Captain Smek (I think it’s funny hearing Martin’s voice coming out of such a goofy character and wish they could’ve added more screen time for his character). Rounding out the voice talents is Matt Jones as a Boov security office named Kyle and, in a smaller cameo appearance is Jennifer Lopez as Tip’s mother Lucy.
DreamWorks’s Home is both kind and gentle, but is also a hodgepodge and dull feature. While its animation is good and its characters (and voice talents) are generally favorable, this animated movie cannot discern itself from other generic run-of-the-mill cartoons. Young kids will probably flock to see this movie, but, for everyone else, Home is better suited as a rental. In the end, Home struggles to find greatness and its place in amongst DreamWorks’s animated library, placing another black mark on the studio’s recent list of mediocre releases. Here’s to hoping that Kung Fu Panda 3 (DreamWorks’s next film project) will be the studio’s shining redemption.