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Rihanna provides the voice for Tip, a human tween who teams up with alien Oh (Jim Parsons) to find her mother.

DreamWorks Animation

2 out of 4 stars

Title
Home
Written by
Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember
Directed by
Tim Johnson
Starring
Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez
Classification
G
Country
USA
Language
English

When the alien race called the Boov decides to colonize Earth as its latest haven from those predatory cosmic bullies called the Gorgs, it's as though the planet gets thrown into an apocalyptic pillow fight. Not only are the Boovs short, fat, purple and squeezeably soft, they're congenitally passive-aggressive and conflict-averse, a bunch of quivering cowards who run for the next habitable heavenly sphere every time the Gorgs get hip to their dodge. Which is exactly what happens when the Boov named Oh (Jim Parsons) hits a "send all" invitation for his housewarming party on the new planet.

Home is the story of what happens when the hapless and unloved uber-dweeb Oh teams up with a perky human tween named Tip (Rihanna), and the two go on a flying fun-car ride in search for the girl's mother (Jennifer Lopez). Mom, along with all the other curiously unprotesting human evictees, has been detained in a fun-filled concentration camp in Australia.

On their bumpy but safely buckled-in way to that family group hug, Oh and Tip teach each other about their cultural customs, try to intercept that unwise intergalactic e-vite, shake their Boov thang to a whole lotta Rihanna music, and generally play out the giant pillow-fight metaphor by trying to smother the entire planet (audience included) in a suffocating virtual baby blanket of cuteness.

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Based on Adam Rex's kid-lit bestseller The True Meaning of Smekday, director Tim Johnson's Home is a War of the Worlds for toddlers, so we shouldn't be surprised that the movie is almost as terrified of anything bad happening as the Boovs themselves. But we can still be disappointed, especially if we've arrived with any expectations of sly, Simpsonian subversion or subtext, the kind of knowing satirical wink that suggests there's something creepy about the world being so easily taken over by purple footstools armed with little more than ice cream cones and deep-space Internet capabilities.

The fact is, the Boovs function with such Slushie-machine smoothness because they've got one of the most powerful forces in the universe on their side: avoidance. (While we're not apprised of any strategies the Boovs may have for non-violent planetary takeover, it's a sure bet it would likely involve antidepressants.)

If you wonder how humans can be so compliantly herded en masse to Australia, or what impact that might have on displaced folk who'd prefer to be relocated to, say, Las Vegas or Sarasota, you're trapped behind the wrong 3-D glasses. And if you're struck by the prickly potential of Earth being overwhelmed by an invasionary force dispatched by a planet somewhere deep in a solar system, you've landed on the wrong movie. There may be a funnier, fiercer and sharper alien kids' comedy underlying all this foam-rubber fun, but darned if this movie is going to let it breathe.

There are instances of captivating visual invention in Home – such as the floating magnetic spheres of unwanted detritus and an Eiffel Tower overturned and repurposed as a giant hypodermic – but they are muffled by the movie's soft-and-fuzzy optical scheme. Again, there's something unnerving about all this, a visionary flicker perhaps of what life might be like if toy manufacturers had their way and Smurfs policed the planet. But those flickers have no place in a big, fat happy meal of a movie like Home. No sooner do they show themselves than, you guessed it, they're zapped to Australia.

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