Last weekend, audiences taught studios a lesson about underestimating girls and women at the box office. Home more than doubled its estimated opening weekend earnings, thanks to its lovable characters and diverse cast, enticing both adults and children to the theater.
Home tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Oh (Jim Parsons) and Tip (Rihana), as they struggle to reunite Tip with her mother (Jennifer Lopez) and to save the planet from an invasion from a hostile alien race. It all starts when the Boov, aliens who excel at running and hiding, take over Earth as a place to hide from the Gorgs. Oh, a happy-go-lucky misfit, believes that moving day will be the best day ever. Unfortunately, the loner Boov do not appreciate Oh’s affable nature, and in a desperate effort to get them to join his house warming party, he accidentally hits “send all” instead of “send” on the e-vite and invites everyone in the galaxy, including the Gorgs. While on the lamb, running from his people’s leader, Captain Smek (Steve Martin), he meets Tip, who was accidentally separated from her mother when the Boov moved all the humans to Australia. In exchange for helping him get out of town, Oh promises to help Tip find her mother. Along with Tip’s cat, Pig, they set off on an adventure in a car that Oh rigged to run on slushies.
Tip and Oh make the movie. Individually they’re lovable enough, especially Oh, but together they have a really fun chemistry that draws out the complexity of their characters. Tip is good at math and her mother worked hard to move them from Barbados so she can have more opportunities. Yet, none of these plot points play like an attempt on the writers’ part to tick diversity and empowerment boxes. Instead, Tip works organically as an interesting, funny lead. In contrast to her fluctuations between sensitivity and toughness, Oh is just a bundle of love. He longs for companionship amid an alien species that doesn’t see the use in friends or neighbors. Yet, he’s also oblivous to Tip’s feelings and a defeatist. The dynamic is wonderful and the voice acting by Jim Parsons and Rihana makes it a lot of fun.
In addition to the characters, I loved that the movie makes a hostile takeover look somewhat passive aggressive. While most movies about aliens spend a lot of time on world-building, Home just matter-of-factly shows the Boov taking over the world in the opening sequence. In their genuine belief that the “humans people” are lucky to have them sort the world out, there’s space to talk with kids about power in history, without the movie getting preachy. Watching the way the Boov literally turned the world upside down was amusing, because of how benign and magical the movie manages to make something quite awful look. Then, a “send all” button threatens the world. It’s great.
I don’t normally comment on a movie’s soundtrack unless it is so good or so bad that it draws extra attention. In Home, it seems like the producers had to bribe Rihana to do the movie by padding the soundtrack with her music. In a couple of places, the use of a Rihana hit was fun and made sense, but in the last third of the movie, her songs start popping up regularly enough that it distracted me. In a few of those scenes, less soundtracking would have allowed the moment to resonate more emotionally.
On that note, the ending is generally pretty messy. After an hour of fun adventure, the movie quickly gets down to connecting all the dots and driving the lessons home. There’s perhaps one quick twist too many and, as a result, the ending jerks the audience around before a quick resolution. I would have happily sat through a slightly longer movie for a better ending. But I’m not five years old.
I’m on record as a devoted fan of the Minions, but Oh is giving them some serious competition. However much I loved the characters in Home, the weaknesses to the plot bring it in at 3/5 stars for me.
Home was written by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, based on the book The True Meaning of Smekday. It was directed by Tim Johnson and runs 94 minutes. Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor.
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