With Home, DreamWorks Animation has done something good: Put out their first film with a POC lead since 1998’s The Prince of Egypt. And the lead is a black girl, the awesomely named Gratuity “Tip” Tucci, who’s voiced by Rihanna and is an immigrant from Barbados and is headstrong and good at math! Yeah!
Only… can we dip our fingers into Home, pluck her out, and drop her in a different movie? A better one? One without Jim Parsons? Because damn.
I have nothing against Parsons. I’ve seen a few episodes of “The Big Bang Theory,” and I didn’t like it, but I don’t violently hate it. I don’t really watch sitcoms (or TV in general), and I don’t have a lot of feelings about them. Dustin is here for that. I’m sure Parsons is a lovely person, and I heard he was great in The Normal Heart.
But Jesus flapjacking Christ. In Oh, a cute yet mistake-prone alien who teams up with Tip to find Tip’s mom and stop an alien race from blowing up the planet, Parsons has voiced one of the most obnoxious characters in the history of animated film. I did briefly to consider writing this review in the manner in which Oh talks from his face, but then I would be having to shoot myself in my face with a nail gun.
The rest of the movie isn’t bad. It isn’t good, either, but it’s not bad. It’s really childish—LOL, Oh accidentally drinks pee!—which makes sense, given it’s a kid’s movie. It’s just not a ParaNorman or a The LEGO Movie or a Toy Story 3, where there’s just as much for adults to appreciate. Home is a visually gorgeous film. There are a few chuckle-worthy moments—I don’t remember what they are, but they’re there. And, as mentioned, Tip is a good protagonist, if not a great one. She’s just sort of… there. I feel like director Tim Johnson did the Haywire thing of compensating for one’s lead not really being all that great by allowing the supporting cast to overshadow them in the dramatic department, instead focusing on what the lead is good at. For Haywire’s Gina Carano: Kicking ass. For Rihanna: Singing, natch. While not a musical, Home features endless Rihanna songs elbowing their way on the soundtrack. I didn’t catch the exact number, but I swear the song used in the background of a song where Oh (an alien) realizes how great a person and friend Tip (a seventh grade girl) is was a love ballad. It was weird.
There was one scene where Home flirted with something a little more substantial. The species Oh belongs to, the cowardly Boov, are constantly on the run from their enemy, the villainous Gorg. They decide Earth is a perfect hiding place, so they move in, relocating all the humans to “HumansTown” in Australia. The Boov think there’s nothing wrong with this, because their leader Captain Smek (Steve Martin) tells them that humans are weird and primitive and honestly pretty dumb, and by taking over the Boov are actually helping them. The scene where Oh realizes how wrong he is—helped along by Tip, who explains that there’s a lot about humanity the Boov just don’t get—is a giant, explicit metaphor for colonialism. It’s a cool thing to have in a kid’s movie, and that Home didn’t go the X-Men route with it (“Check out this awesome metaphor for the oppression of marginalized groups, where ‘marginalized groups’ are replaced by white/straight people, because how else are you supposed to empathize with them?”) is even cooler.
So a tip of the hat to screenwriters Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember for that. Though it is a little weird how the actions of both the Boov (who have enslaved an entire species and rained some Man of Steel-style destruction upon Earth) and the Gorg (who are strongly implied to have blown up planets while the indigenous populations were still on them) get excused with a shrug and a “Whoops! We made a mistake, and also we were maybe a little cranky. Group hug!”
Basically, don’t put too much thought into this movie, because no one involved in making it did. If you’re looking for something to take your kids to, and they’ve already seen Cinderella, you could do worse. Just tell them if they start speaking like Oh afterwards (“I am very excitement to make a new fresh start!”), they are grounded.