An Earth-invading alien and an abandoned human girl become friends. Rated PG.
Adam Rex's deep-reaching novel is now a joke-driven movie.
Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin
On its surface, "Home" is a fairly typical children's film, a buddy comedy about a human and an alien. Like many a production from DreamWorks Animation, "Home" is brightly colored and somewhat noisy with a Top 40 soundtrack and an abundance of references to popular culture. Aside from its obligatory messages of peace and friendship, there isn't much to it.
Still, if your subtext-radar keeps pinging during this movie about alien invaders who forcibly relocate Earth's natives, there's a reason. "Home" is based on "The True Meaning of Smekday," Adam Rex's allegorical science-fiction novel about colonialism, Manifest Destiny and racial identity. "Home" necessarily streamlines Rex's overstuffed book but also strips away most of its meaningful ideas. All that remain are the bare bones of Rex's story and his loopy, kid-friendly humor.
The hero of "Home" is a six-legged alien named Oh (voiced by a likable Jim Parsons), whose species, the Boov, descend upon Earth and thoughtfully repatriate all humans to Australia -- except, that is, for Gratuity "Tip" Tucci (a serviceable Rihanna), a young girl separated from her mother. When Oh accidentally becomes a fugitive from his own kind, he and Tip strike an uneasy truce and embark on a road trip -- or, rather, a hover trip -- after Oh gives her hatchback an upgrade. Tracking them from afar are the Boov's brainless, blustering leader, Smek (Steve Martin), and a much fiercer alien, the Gorg (Brian Stepanek).
In the book, Oh's use of pidgin English ("What does you mean?") works as wry commentary on supposedly superior beings; the Boov call humans "noble savages" yet repeatedly mangles the English language. In the movie, though, Oh's dialect has a vaguely minstrel-ish ring. As for Tip, her mixed ethnicity is alluded to but never explored. The character of Frank, a world-weary Navajo who most clearly illustrates Rex’s point, is entirely absent.
Directed by Tim Johnson ("Antz") from a script by Eric Ember and Tom J. Astle (both of the "Get Smart" movie), "Home" is an upbeat, fantasy-world version of Rex's sometimes discomfiting novel. The film moves quickly and keeps the jokes coming, which only means that "Home" would rather keep young viewers occupied than give them something to think about.