Earlier today, I saw a special sneak peek of the newest DreamWorks film, “Home,” which debuts next weekend.
A summary of the plot (with as few spoilers as possible): The film features a goofy but likable space alien named Oh, an alien who’s unique among his people (the “Boov”) in being individualistic. This is on top of Oh being mistake-prone, even among the bumbling Boov. When the Boov (in search of a new planet to live) conquer the Earth, Oh has a run-in with Tip, a teenaged girl who’s looking for her mother. Accompanying them is Tip’s pet cat, named Pig.
While there’s been plenty of films about lovable but goofy space aliens (at least dating back to “E.T.”), “Home” was still an enjoyable film. Like others, I appreciated Tip’s presence. She’s a rarity in modern animation: a Black female character as the star of a major theatrical animated film. To my knowledge, she’s also the only Black female star of a CGI animated theatrical film. Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog,” while enjoyable, was done in traditional 2D. Tip herself is shown as capable and smart—as she mentions in a few points in the film, she “got an ‘A’ in geometry.” Early in the film, we see Tip’s also managed to evade detection from the Boov.
Jim Parsons voiced Oh, while Tip is voiced by Rihanna. Other voices in the film include Jennifer Lopez as Tip’s mother, and Steve Martin as Captain Smek, the leader of the Boov. Smek strongly reminds me of DreamWorks’ own King Julien from “Madagascar.” Julien is another eccentric, odd- and clueless-acting leader. Unlike the “Madagascar” leader, however, things turn out much differently for Smek in “Home.”
A few of the gags in the film revolve around the Earth having been invaded around Christmas. This might be a remnant of “Home” being originally scheduled for a November release, before it swapped release dates with “Penguins of Madagascar.” Some of the gags are pitched at adults, such as Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” playing a minor role. The soundtrack makes much use of Rihanna’s own music, as well as R&B/pop songs in general.
The only thing I didn’t enjoy about “Home” was seeing it in 3D. I was surprised to see it was in 3D when I got to the theater; the sneak peek invitation/sign-up didn’t give any indication of such. “Home” also marks the first time I’ve seen a film in 3D at the theater…and I frankly hope it’ll be the last. I still think 3D’s just an expensive gimmick designed to boost box office take while not adding anything of value. Until they invent “Star Trek” holodeck-style holographic, glasses-less 3D, I’ll stick with 2D, thanks. The 3D aspects aside, the animation style/quality is from what I could tell standard DreamWorks. If you’ve seen a recent DreamWorks film, nothing here should stand out one way or the other.
Overall, DreamWorks has a lot riding on “Home,” but as I wrote before, its chances of success should be promising. Other than the two-week-old live-action “Cinderella,” there’s no other remotely family-friendly films opening until mid-April, when “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” opens.
There’s definitely a dry spell for animated features, as well—the next such film is Pixar’s “Inside Out” on June 19. Despite “Home” as DreamWorks’ only animated film out this year, it’s got a stronger chance of success than “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” this time a year ago. It had to fight off “The LEGO Movie” and “Muppets Most Wanted.”