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REVIEW: Dreamworks’ “Home”

REVIEW: Dreamworks' "Home"

Knowing how badly DreamWorks needs a hit, I really wanted Home to be a terrific film that would
score a smash at the box office. Sadly, Home
feels very derivative, borrowing heavily from Lilo and Stitch, Despicable
Me
and several recent DreamWorks features. It offers the same sitcom one-liners,
potty jokes, unnecessary songs, chases and simple-minded life lessons that
failed to win big audiences for Turbo,
Mr. Peabody and Sherman and Penguins of Madagascar.

Based on Adam Rex’s undistinguished juvenile novel “The True
Meaning of Smekday,” Home follows the
misadventures of Gratuity (“my friends call me ‘Tip’”) Tucci (voice by Rihanna)
who was separated from her mother Lucy (Jennifer Lopez) when the alien Boov took
over the Earth. Like many recent heroines, Tip is a spunky misfit. Although
she’s only 11, she takes her mom’s car and sets out to find her, precipitating
a cute meet with Oh (Jim Parsons, the Emmy-winning star of The Big Bang Theory), the most inept member of the Boov.

A cheery doofus who doesn’t realize no one likes him, Oh
sent invitations to his housewarming party to everyone in the galaxy, which could
reveal the location of the Boov’s newly acquired home of Earth to the hostile,
planet-destroying Gorg.

In this version of the story, the Boov are a race of utter
cowards led by Captain Smek (Steve Martin), who wants Oh arrested and erased
for his mistakes and general stupidity. As they’re both on the lam, Oh uses Boov
technology to convert Tip’s car to a hovercraft.

In the book, Oh, Tip and Pig, Tip’s cat, slowly made their
way from New Jersey to Florida to Arizona. In the film, their journey has been stretched
to include visits to uninspired versions of Paris and Australia. Home turns into a rambling road trip/buddy
picture, as Tip and Oh bond, learning about each other’s cultures and, of
course, about themselves. In a series of multiple endings, Tip finds her mom; inspired
by Tip’s courage, Oh unseats Smek as the leader of the Boov and makes peace
with the Gorg. But Oh accomplishes these things alone, rather than in
partnership with Tip, as the story demands. Once all the threats have been
summarily resolved, Oh reflects on the true meaning of “home,” a dim echo of Stitch’s
moving, straightforward declaration, “This is my family.”

In Rex’s book, the Boov are not adorable little cowards who
suggest the Minions from Despicable Me
redesigned as sponge bath toys. Tip knew her mother been kidnapped by the Boov
and feared her life was in danger. The Gorg were a genuine menace, even more
frightening than the Boov. Together, Tip and the Oh character exploited the
Gorg’s advanced technology–and their violent allergy to cat hair–to defeat
them. After describing the Gorg as menacing monsters, Home backs away from the threat and 
tacks on a namby-pamby ending.

Having gotten Parsons from the hit sitcom, director Tim
Johnson apparently felt compelled to use him, as Oh never shuts up. Usually, he
speaks in an irritating, mangled English, except when he gives portentous
speeches near the end of the film. Then his speech miraculously becomes
grammatical. He lacks the complexity and mischievous charm of Stitch, on whom
he’s obviously partially modeled. Steve Martin, who never read a line he
couldn’t overplay, makes Smek less a comic figure than an idiotic one.

The film lacks individuality. Viewers will feel they’ve seen
a lot of these elements seen before–and they have. Although the joke is in the
book, Oh mistakes the urinal deodorant cakes in a men’s room for mints, as Melman
the giraffe did in the first Madagascar
film. In place of gags involving the cheesy dust from the packaged snacks in the
Penguins movie, there are gags about melted
cheese from a nacho dispenser and the neon-colored drinks dispensed by
mini-markets. And there are the same self-consciously profound lessons at the
end, just before the inevitable final scene of all the character incongruously
dancing to a pop tune.

I hope Home brings
DreamWorks a financial boost, but it doesn’t look like the hit the studio
needs.

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