Review: Home Is Dreamworks On Autopilot
Director: Tim Johnson
Screenwriter: Tom J. Astle (screenplay), Matt Ember (screenplay), and Adam Rex (book “The True Meaning of Smekday”)
Principal Cast: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Jones, and Brian Stepanek
Summary: Oh, an alien on the run from his own people, lands on Earth and makes friends with the adventurous Tip, who is on a quest of her own — via IMDB
I’ve spent the last two weeks getting my butt kicked by a rather nasty illness. It was bad enough that I called out of my day job for the first time in three years. The day that Home was screening was only the second day I was back to work after two days off and I had to go to work then go almost immediately go to the screening. There was a running bet amongst my loved ones whether or not I would fall asleep during the movie because I didn’t think that Home looked very good.
Home can best be described as “Dreamworks on auto pilot” with near insufferable levels of Rihanna product placement.
This is one of the most annoying types of review to do because Home isn’t bad. There were a few things about it that I did like. For example, our main character Tip is a young woman of color and her race is never used as a plot point. More often than not when a movie uses a character of color they are either being used as some sort of plot point to make a point about race or the movie comes across as self congratulatory about having a character of color. It defines the character only by their race and not by their personality or actions. Tip’s race is never really brought up, though that might be because she only interacts with Oh and no other human beings.
The other thing I did like was that Tip’s focus during the movie was not saving the world or anything like that but simply finding her Mom, a single mother raising a young woman by herself and the movie never comments on the fact that Tip is worse off because she doesn’t have a Dad in the picture. The idea of “saving the world” doesn’t come into play until very late in the film, and while I did like that finding family was the main focus it did hurt the pace of the story.
The pacing is really the main thing that ruined the movie for me. The story never really felt very cohesive to me and, like I said, the whole “saving the world from an alien invasion” thing seems to be an after thought. The human race doesn’t seem to react to the fact that they’ve been invaded at all. There isn’t a single hint about military retaliation, and while I understand that this is a kids movie and war isn’t a fun topic it did make the stakes feel very low. Like I said in my Paddington review there are “kids movies” which just appeal to kids that adults will begrudgingly watch, and “family movies” where adults can enjoy watching as much as kids. Home is a kids movie because I can only see adults getting quite bored by the bad pacing that makes under an hour and a half feel very long.
The movie is also banking a lot on Rihanna’s presence as the voice of our main character. She does not sound like a teenager at all and the juxtaposition was jarring. There is also the fact that the movie uses something like six of her songs throughout the entire movie. It was product placement that rivaled that of a Sony production who are infamous for obnoxious product placement. However, unlike actual product placement you can’t really ignore music. Someone else mentioned this to the studio representative, and if the common moviegoer is noticing then you have a problem. I was waiting for them to make Tip sing and completely break the fourth wall.
Home isn’t a bad movie but it does feel like something Dreamworks would make when they are trying to find something to release during the slower time of the year. There are pop culture references and a flimsy story that relies on cliched “finding courage” as the overarching theme. I can only give it so many points for its lead, but everything else just falls apart so spectacularly that I couldn’t overlook it. I didn’t fall asleep (but it was close!) and when your audience is bored during a kids movie you’ve fundamentally failed.