Home is more Dreamworks "meh"
Dreamworks Animation has not had a very good couple of years.In January studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg announced an estimated 500 layoffs, budgetary cutbacks and a reduction to two annual features to help right a ship that, despite wins like The Croods and How to Train Your Dragon 2, found itself taking on water due to the failures of Rise of the Guardians, Turbo, Mr. Peabody & Sherman and The Penguins of Madagascar.
Home, the studio's latest offering — and only offering for 2015 as the new plan goes into affect next year — hasn't performed badly, which is a plus for the studio, though it does exhibit the sort of traits that have grounded many of the studio's offerings while their competition is still flying high.
The film follows the misadventures of an accident prone, empathetically disinclined alien named Oh (Jim Parsons, Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory) and a young girl named Gratuity (pop singer Rihanna) as they try to evade the dimwitted authorities of Oh's own species while searching for Gratuity's displaced mother.
Oh's race — the Boovs — decided Earth was a suitable home for their species, and, in what's presented in a matter of minutes, use space vacuums and energy bubbles to simply relocate the entire human population to towns in Australia under the impression that they, as a "simpler" species, will be happy with that.
Dreamworks has always shown a propensity toward being one of the lighter and hipper studios in the field, usually avoiding the gravitas that has long been a staple of the Pixar films (that aren't part of the abysmal Cars franchise). Dreamworks' films usually distill down to brightly colored attempts at animated fun set to catchy recent pop music, largely two or one dimensional characters interacting in a universe of cheap pop culture and poop jokes.
Well, Home does have a reduction in the general scatological humor when compared to recent middle ground releases like, say, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, but it's still an oversimplified affair that feels like it's in a hurry to get to its gags rather than tell its story properly.
Think about that concept for a minute — the whole human population of Earth just zapped up into space vacuums and relocated during a visual gag heavy opening sequence as, essentially, a series of jokes. That raises a lot of complicated issues that, honestly, children aren't going to quite catch onto, and that's understandable. But the film's heroine is more sarcastic and playful than heartbroken, and it becomes hard to invest much into the concept and the characters. Don't worry if it's almost sad for a moment, an R & B song will be on soon for the characters to dance to and Oh is going to mistake a urinal cake for a breath mint.
The real problem with Home is that it isn't a bad movie so much as its creators had really very little drive to make it a good one.
Little tykes in the family are going to find it uproariously funny. But anyone over the age of twelve? Not so much.
That isn't to say the film isn't without merit. Parsons gives an excellent performance in a role that seems like largely a more subtle and friendly echo of his Sheldon character from The Big Bang Theory, and has a few speeches that elevate the character into more interesting and empathetic territory. But the filmmakers are only willing to break their goofy kids comedy so much. The result is a film that will often seem tedious to adults.
While I can't say I actively disliked it or hated it, I can tell you that it wasn't particularly interested in engaging the adults who bring the little tykes to the movies, and that is a potentially grievous wound on its own.
It isn't the worst Dreamworks has turned out over the years, but they could be doing a lot better.